24th - 26th April 2019, Sailing from Trinidad to Union Island (distance 150nm)
Whilst Mattis and I were preparing Jingo for sea again at the marina, we heard news that there was a piracy attack not far off the north coast of Trinidad. The incident occurred ten days before we wanted to leave Trinidad and it happened along the route we wanted to sail. We knew previously from talking to other sailors and reading the news that if you sail near Venezuela (which is only about 15 miles away from Trinidad), you could possibly be putting your life at risk.
We read this alert on an online forum the morning after it happened:
“On the 14th April about 1030, 'Sylph', a 55t Beneteau sailboat positioned about 15nm NE of the Hibiscus oil platform, was approached by a group of eight Venezuelans in an attempted piracy attack. The yacht refused to stop and in heavy seas and high winds took an evasive zig zag course preventing them from boarding. Due to the fact that the pirates were unable to board, they abandoned their plans and left, but fired several shots at the yacht. The yacht suffered several bullet holes. 'Sylph' made it to Port Louis, Grenada and met with the Coastguard and Officials”.
As a result of this event, any boats sailing from Trinidad to Grenada or vice versa were advised to file a float plan, so that Trinidad and Tobago Coastguard (TTCG) could patrol the area. Boats were also advised to convoy with other boats where possible. If there were 10 or more boats sailing together, they would also be escorted by TTCG to their destination.
We kept an eye on the online cruising group and contacted one of the administrators in case there were any other boats heading north the same day we wanted to. Unfortunately we didn't find anyone to sail with. Mattis and I made a plan to sail along the north coast of Trinidad, heading east, as far east as we felt comfortable, away from Venezuela (at least 30nm east of the Hibiscus oil platform), before heading north to Union Island. The extra distance would add on at least an extra half day, but we were in no rush and there was absolutely no point in putting ourselves in harm's way.
We left the marina in Chaguaramas, Trinidad, early on Wednesday 24th April after a hearty breakfast and clearing out of Immigration and Customs. It was not the most comfortable first sail after a year of being away. As we started sailing east across the north coast of Trinidad, we sailed just far enough to not be too close to land, but we started experiencing a lumpy sea state and were only motoring at 1.5kts as there was no wind and the current running against us. We had waves on the beam and we were rolling from side to side.
It didn't take long for me to start becoming lethargic and being seasick. I was out like a light. That, and also having not sailed for a year, probably didn't help me in getting my sealegs again. Around midnight I started to feel much better and was able to take the helm. We had dolphins to keep us company, which was weirdly reassuring that everything was going to be okay...
We motored hard through the night as we didn't want to take any risks with coming across any suspicious looking vessels. We did have a moment though. In the middle of the night, Mattis was on watch and for well over an hour he saw that there was a boat slowly approaching us from a distance. I woke up and kept an eye with Mattis, this boat was definitely heading our way, but kept looking like it was changing course; heading south of us and then back onto its collision course with us. They weren't showing up on our AIS (Automatic Identification System). We couldn't identify who they were, so we radioed them. Several times. No answer.
They were still on course for us. I started thinking, maybe they're asleep? That's why their course kept on changing? It didn't look as though they were speeding along. Mattis shone our brightest torch directly onto our sails, illuminating them, showing the other boat, 'Hey, we are here! You are on a collision course with us!'. We increased our engine speed, changed our course away from them and eventually the other boat started to recede slowly into the background.
You just never know. With everything that you read and hear what has happened to other sailors, could it have been pirates? Either way, it was scary. Even more so because it was at night.
We continued to motor until the next morning and were as far east as we wanted to go. Winds were picking up and we were able to switch off the engine. We were clipping along! It's always a bit of relief to switch off the engine and sail. We made our way north to Chatham Bay, on the west coast of Union Island and anchored at 0100 on Friday 26th April (a 50 hour passage).
Since leaving Trinidad and Tobago, we've read of more sailors who have had experience of this particular pirate attack (not always with guns) and they've occurred throughout this last year especially.
26th - 29th March 2019 – Union Island
We started using our new electronic equipment for navigation and it was fantastic. It was much easier for us to see the COG (course over the ground), SOG (speed over the ground), depth, and distance to the next waypoint right in front of us in the cockpit, instead of having to go down below to the chartplotter, as the systems are now linked. We were happy to be free and exploring again!
We decided to anchor on the west coast of Union Island and walk to Immigration and Customs, in Clifton, which was on the east coast of the island, which was 4km away. By walking through the island, we'd get to sightsee too!
Chatham Bay was tranquil, with three or four bars dotted along the beach, and we were welcomed ashore by a pair of dogs. We chained up our dinghy and started to make our way up to the track that would take us up the steep, rocky hill and towards Clifton, the city of the island. We were stopped along the way and greeted by a friendly local who owned one of the beach shacks and let us know that he had nice cold beers and a BBQ if we fancied fish when we got back.
Union Island is just 5x3km, very mountainous, luscious and green. From what we'd read from the pilot book, it is often likened to Tahiti. The Tahiti of the Caribbean.
We walked through the other main town, Ashton (Clifton and Ashton are said to be named after the towns near Bristol in the UK, after sailors explored and settled there).
There are approximately 3000 people that live on Union Island and the heritage is different here compared to Trinidad. In Trinidad, there is a very strong Indian and African influence, whereas on Union Island, the heritage is mainly African.
We stayed in Chatham Bay for 3 nights. It was divine, it actually really reminded us of Punta Papagayo in Lanzarote, the Canaries. A large bay with clear waters and a clean beach.
Our plan was to next sail to Mayreau and then Mustique before Bequia. A couple who came over to our boat on their dinghy to say hello highly recommended Tobago Cays, which was only around the corner from where we were anchored.
They described the colour of the water as unreal, and told us you could swim with turtles. And they we right. The Tobago Cays are made up of 5 stunning islands that you can only get to by boat.
Union Island to Tobago Cays, 29th April 2019 (distance 15nm)
This was one of our best passages so far, even though it was only a short trip, a great sail all the same. The wind conditions and sea state were perfect. Tacking into the islands was incredibly fun! We had a much more relaxed sail than the sail from Trinidad and enjoyed the 20-25kt winds. We realised more and more that our boat loves going to windward and we felt more confident in sailing.
It was a glorious morning. When we arrived, we anchored in 4m of the clearest blue water you've ever seen and there were turtles everywhere. This was a dream, why would anyone leave?
29th April - 1st May 2019 – Tobago Cays
We were absolutely blown away as we motored through the islands before anchoring next to one of the islands, called Baradal.
We swam with turtles in their natural habitat...
One of the Pirates of the Caribbean films, 'Curse of the Black Pearl', was filmed on Petit Tabac (pictured below), just west of the 'World's End Reef', across from where we were anchored.
Local sellers would pass by on their boats at different times of the day and sell items such as banana bread and fish. We also had an invitation to eat lobster on the beach that evening. It was very nearly the end of lobster season and it was one of the last nights to have a BBQ lobster dinner.
1st - 5th May 2019 – Bequia 'Island of the Clouds' (distance from Tobago Cays; 35nm)
We had a glorious sail, averaging 7kts for most of the passage. We were fishing and Mattis caught a barracuda!! Because of the possible risk of getting ciguetera and becoming ill if we ate this fish, we decided to release him.
We anchored on the west coast of Bequia, in Admiralty Bay, which was just a mile's walk to the centre of Port Elizabeth. There were many more boats anchored in this long bay and it was definitely more touristy than Chatham Bay, Union Island.
The bay looked so inviting and we couldn't wait to row ashore and see what it offered. The coastline was ruggedly beautiful. There was an immediate sense that the environment is well looked after and when we were ashore, we soon started seeing signs about respecting Bequia and keeping Bequia clean. Admiralty Bay reminded me very much of Dartmouth in Devon, UK with the beautiful colourful houses on the hillside.
There's a Creole/British heritage in Bequia. We noticed that some of the locals had almost a Caribbean/British accent.
Back at the anchorage, locals came by each morning on their small wooden boats selling baguettes, croissants, ice, water, fuel, even a boatside laundry service. This would be done next to your boat using a diesel generator connected to 2 plastic drums in which your clothes would be washed.
We ate mahi mahi again for the first time in a long time at one of the restaurants. Such a treat! As we were having lunch, on the dock in front of us, fishermen brought in a 96lb tuna...
On the 3rd May, we hopped on the bus and stayed on it to see where it went and took a tour of the southern half of the island. We got off the bus and went to Friendship Bay. On the walk down the hill to the beach we collected mangoes and a fruit called sapadilla. The most delicious fruit! It had the consistency of a pear, with a gritty texture, but it had an almost golden, nectar, honey taste. The riper they got, the more they tasted of honey. Very unusual and we'd never seen one before.
On the bus at one end of the island, we noticed a building that looked almost like a factory of some sort. We learned afterwards that this was where whales that were caught would be processed. Bequia still hunts whales, but are restricted to one a year. One of the bars we went to for a sundowner had stools with seats made out of the vertebrae/discs of the whale and the entrance and bar was made out of the ribs.
Once we got to the beach, we quickly noticed that we had the whole bay to ourselves. Most people tend to visit Admiralty Bay, where we were anchored; Friendship Bay just on the other side of the hill was almost deserted. We relished in the quiet and even had a little nap. Every day we were up at the crack of dawn, before 0600, so it was nice to lie back and soak in the atmosphere.
Our next destination after Bequia was Martinique, one of the French Caribbean islands (an overseas region and department of France), as it was half way up to Antigua, 100nm away and also a well-known, excellent place to do provisioning, stock up on fuel and water before crossing the Atlantic to the Azores.
A couple of days before leaving, we had a look at our charts and noticed that Guadeloupe, also a French island, was just one island south of Antigua and only 40 miles apart instead of 150 miles compared to Martinique and we could do our provisioning there just as well. Guadeloupe it was.
Sunday 5th May
We set sail for Guadeloupe. Crossing 5 channels and sailing in the lee of the islands over 190nm, was a little hard going. Many people when they sail up or down the Caribbean, usually go from one island to the next. We made a big jump in one go, passing 4 main islands along the way.
Channels we sailed across (distance 170nm)
Bequia channel: No problem. A quick, enjoyable sail.
St Vincent channel: Very choppy sea state, Force 6. We were sailing 7kts.
St Lucia channel: This was a night time sail and was very quick! Sailing 8½ kts for most of the night.
Martinique channel: Good, quick sail.
Dominica channel: Good sail. There were a few squalls in the night/early morning. We were becalmed behind Dominica for around 8 hours, in the lee of the island, from 0600 until after lunchtime. This was disheartening as it was slow sailing. It felt as if we were going nowhere as we could still see the coast of Dominica hours and hours. Sitting in the heat of the sun made the day seem even longer.
We were exhausted after being becalmed and then sailing hard and fast through the channels, so we decided to stay the next night in the Iles des Saintes, a group of small islands just 30 miles south of where we wanted to sail to in Guadeloupe. A small town called Deshaies (Dehe in Creole, pronounced 'Day-Hay').
6th May 2019 – Isles des Saintes
After 36 hours of tiring sailing, we reached the Iles des Saintes, anchored, took off our lifejackets and sighed with relief as we were able to now have a moment to relax. Suddenly the emotions, tiredness and irritability hit both of us in one go. We needed a good nights sleep.
Sailing on adrenaline meant everything was suppressed until we finally stopped. Sailing can sometimes be completely euphoric, not being able to quite believe the sights and sounds you come across or utterly depleting of energy, enthusiasm and ambition.
Either way, sailing and our experiences have been teaching us a lot about how we are, how we react in different situations, and also how we are with each other as we are a team.
We anchored in the Iles des Saintes around 1600. These group of islands had a very dramatic backdrop of unusual rocks and archipelago shooting out of the sea. Something that we hadn't seen yet on our travels.
There were only a handful of boats in the anchorage. Sunset was jawdropping, the colours never cease to amaze. We made some dinner and were asleep by 1930. We woke up at 0430 to stow away the few things we had unpacked, get our leecloths up again and we were underway by 0530. To sail the last 30nm to Deshaies.
Looking back on our sailing since Trinidad, we've had no issues with Jingo. Even to the point where we are now pushing her more and more, testing to see how much she can handle if we were to get into rougher sea conditions. There have been no strange noises, worrying creaks or sounds. We'd almost forgotten that there were things to potentially look out for as she was sailing so well. Fingers crossed this continues for the future.
7th - 20th May - Deshaies, Guadeloupe
Iles des Saintes channel: This was the best sail between all of the channels. This was a really nice, smooth sail to Guadeloupe. A big tuna hit our lure hard and tore it in half, leaping six feet into the air, but missing the hook. On our sail in, we were starting to cut through more and more sargassum (seaweed), so we brought our fishing lines in and will be saving them for our Atlantic Crossing. The patches of sargassum were getting larger and larger, to the point where they were beginning to look like masses of carpet on the surface of the sea. You could tell that the only reason they were probably broken up was because of boats passing through them. Christopher Columbus noticed these carpets across the sea on his way to the Caribbean, hence the name the Sargasso Sea.
We anchored in picturesque Deshaies. There were about 40 boats in this anchorage, most of which were catamarans that belong to the people living here.
Guadeloupe, 'the island of beautiful waters', is well known as a butterfly shaped island with two islands separated by a small channel in the middle. The Guadeloupe archipelago was designated a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1993, one of only 25 in the world.
Guadeloupe's specialities are rum, coffee and chocolate! Our absolute favourites and also being a French island, it fits perfectly. Of course we wanted to stock up as much as we possibly could before leaving for our 4 week passage to the Azores.
Guadeloupe feels very much like France on a Caribbean island. Mattis and I have been to France a couple of times with our car on the ferry and absolutely love it. From the driving, to the food and drink, the language... Guadeloupe is very similar. The food here is a mix of French, African, East Indian and and Southeast Asian recipes. Very unique indeed. And there so many different types of rum to choose from. We did notice that food and drinks were certainly much cheaper than the other Caribbean islands we'd been to so far.
Deshaies itself is a great small town, with most of its services, cafes, restaurants and shops situated along the small bay. Deshaies has many chickens and cockerels that roam around the streets. Nobody owns them, but there is a respect for them and they are not treated as vermin.
Deshaies has an excellent array of restaurants. And the only Boulangerie is mouthwatering. There is a queue waiting outside every morning at 0630, to buy the freshest baguettes, croissants, pain au chocolats and of course an espresso.
On our first evening, we walked around the village and picked a spot to eat and watch the sunset. A few hours before, we'd been in the gift shop, which also handles Customs Clearance. You log into Customs on a computer system and fill out your details online to clear into France/Guadeloupe.
As Mattis and I were talking, there was another couple waiting to use the computer. Later on, when we were going to have dinner, the couple had spotted us and heard that we may be going to Antigua after Guadeloupe. They had just sailed from Antigua and spent a month there, they said it was very expensive and the charges are extortionate. We did want to go to Antigua, because it would have been a good place for us to meet other sailors who were on their way to the Azores, so we could share ideas. Now we started thinking about where we wanted to sail from and whether it was really necessary to stop in Antigua?
On a side note...that same restaurant, apparently is the set for a TV drama called 'Death in Paradise'. And the next season, is currently being filmed as we speak. We weren't sure if it was true or not, until a few days later when we saw the film crew, lights etc and the road was cordoned off... After reading a little bit about it, one of the characters in it is played by Ardal O'Hanlon (aka Father Dougal McGuire from Father Ted!!). In case anyone is interested, I've included a link to a Radio Times article that was published a few days ago about the new season...
It just seemed natural that most people sail to the Azores via Antigua/Bermuda, so we thought we'd do the same. But really, you can of course sail to the Azores from any of the Caribbean islands, it just depends on what route you want to take and what kind of time scale you have (in terms of; sailing quickly to the Azores, or taking your time and dipping below the low pressure areas and sailing back up north in between each low).
The next day, we made a picnic and sat on the beach. There was a crab maybe about 3 metres in front of us, that came out of its hole in the sand and was making another home just next to it. As it was going back and forth, it stopped for a minute and Mattis gently threw one of our olive stones towards it. The crab caught it in one! The crab assessed it and swiftly took it into its home. We couldn't believe it!!
We bought our first bag of ice (EVER) in Guadeloupe and took it back to Jingo to put into our cool locker and it was a revelation to us. We were beside ourselves that we had lovely cold drinks onboard, could make rum cocktails, have cold water. Why we'd never done that before, I don't know, we just weren't used to having cold drinks onboard or having a fridge.
We rowed back after being ashore for the day and we noticed a new boat anchored behind us, called Ambition. The owners were sitting in their cockpit and said hello. The wife shouted over to us and offered us a tub of sorbet that they weren't going to eat. They had too much onboard and they were leaving the anchorage to sail to Antigua the next morning. We said we'd love some. We rowed over to them a little while later to collect it and they were a great couple. They gave much more than we were expecting, dark chocolate, a bottle of red wine and the litre tub of cherry sorbet. The wife said that we looked so happy on our boat, that our boat was full of love and that she got goosebumps! She said that we were they nicest people they'd met all season. We almost didn't know what to say, what a compliment!
We didn't have anything to give back to them, we were wondering, what could we give them? So we drew them a sketch of their yacht, made a card out of it and popped our Jingo information inside to keep in touch. We had a plan the next morning to row out nice and early to them, to pop it in their cockpit before they woke up. But as we were getting up at 0600, they already had their engine on and were ready to leave the anchorage! We thought 'oh no, we're going to miss them!”. Luckily, we didn't and we caught them. We said our goodbyes, exchanged details, and gave them two mangos off a tree in Bequia.
It's moments like these that makes it for us. It isn't always about the scenery you come across, but the people you meet, that makes you remember how special that visit was.
Deshaies has been the best anchorage we have come across so far. Not very rolly at night, no mosquitoes, cool in the evenings. We slept so well!
On our third day in Guadeloupe, we decided to get the bus into the city centre, Pointe a Pitre. There is no timetable, you wait at the bus stop until one comes, and sometimes they are minivans instead of buses. It was a 30 mile journey to Pointe a Pitre, which is in the middle of Guadeloupe and with traffic it took us 2 hours to get there. Being only 4 euro each, we couldn't complain and we were in no rush, so we soaked in the island as we drove through.
The heart of the city centre was picturesque, with ornate French looking buildings. There were bright, colourful, artistic murals wherever we walked, a big part of the the Guadeloupean (or Gwada) culture.
It got to 1730 and we thought it was probably time to head back to Deshaies, seeing as it took 2 hours to get into town. Just as we got to the central bus station, we saw a bus leaving for Deshaies. We thought, there'll be another one soon. The other buses quickly departed from the station and before we knew it, the sun had set and it was nightfall. The station was empty. Some people saw us sitting there and asked us where we were going and they reassured us that one more bus would be coming. Mattis and I waited for an hour and a half. Thoughts of where to stay in town overnight were already crossing our minds. But then...a brand new minivan pulled up at our stop and the driver said he was going to Deshaies! The journey back was much shorter, only an hour. We were glad to see Jingo again!
Saturday 11th May 2019
We hired a car and drove down the west coast of Guadeloupe and into the heart of the island to visit waterfalls and the rainforest! The trees and size of the leaves were breathtaking. We are so used to the sound of the ocean and the waves, but here the sound of cascading water rushing through the rocks was just as beautiful!! We learned that there are many species of freshwater crayfish and crabs too. The rainforest seemed like a world away from the anchorages and beaches we were definitely getting used to.
Afterwards, we did our provisioning at the largest Carrefour/supermarket on the island and easily spent €500. This was enough food and drink to last us 5-6 weeks (mostly for our Atlantic Crossing). Having decided to no longer sail to Antigua, or to go into a marina and do our last provisions, we had to think about how we were going to do everything from the anchorage.
That morning before we did our big food shop, we checked our two water tanks, and they were actually both still full. We had just been using our refilled 5L and 1.5L bottles of water we had on board and of that we'd only used maybe 30L of our supplies. Not much at all for us. We hardly used any water, we went swimming everyday, had a wash in the sea, and drank some of the bottles of water.
Having seen a little bit of Guadeloupe over the last 2 and half weeks, we noticed that the island is very active in terms of sports. The locals are keen cyclists who take it very seriously, almost on par with the Tour de France. The terrain is great for pushing their limits. Also, hiking the archipelago, football and motorsports, from cars to motorbikes are huge here.
To the north of Deshaies, we climbed up the 200 metre hill... And enjoyed the view from the top.
Passage to the Azores
We have enough fuel in our tank and in jerry cans to motor 500+nm. This will enable us to get through the calm patches across the Atlantic. We expect by looking at the weather systems that this will probably occur after the first week.
We currently have one drogue onboard. It is a single drogue, which we'd use if we were caught in adverse weather and wanted to slow the boat down, keeping us stern to the waves, instead of being beam on and rolling as a result. The passage across the Atlantic to the Azores, is likely to be harder than our sail to the Caribbean back in January 2018. As a precaution, we ordered a series drogue from the UK, should we get into any serious trouble out on the ocean. It is currently on its way.
Mattis spliced up two bridles for our drogue out of three strand nylon. The bridles run from the drogue over the stern rail, then forward and out through the forward fairleads to loop around the stem. This way there are no cleats or chainplates involved that could get torn out by the forces involved. At the stern the bridles are led through low friction rings lashed to the rail to minimise chafe.
As the series drogue keeps the stern facing the waves, we expect to ship some breaking waves when using it. Mattis made a storm board, which slots in aft of the companion washboards to help take the impact.
We have enlisted the help of a meteorologist, who we will be in contact with us each day via our satellite messenger.
We now have an AIS man overboard beacon, that we have installed into our life jacket. If one of us were to fall overboard, the device will send its location to our AIS receiver. This is especially important for us during our night watches as we both have trouble sleeping with the other person alone in the cockpit.
Doing everything from the anchorage has definitely been fun, thinking of different ways to do things. Such as bringing a sheet of plywood back to Jingo and cutting it down to size on the deck.
Jobs To Do Before Our Atlantic Crossing
- Fill up final fuel
- Lifeline lashings
- Jackstay lashings
- Check shrouds/spreaders
- Stow anchor
- Fit storm board
- Fill both grab bags
- Spray lifebuoy and rig rope with our can of orange paint (to make it stand out)
- Set up AIS (Automatic Identification System) MOB (Man Overboard Beacon)
- Lash mast to step
- Glue up any interior that needs glueing
- Fit new battery or keep as a spare/emergency battery
- Fit fairleads
- Finish rigging drogue
- Tape windows and solar panel
- Install solar panel plug and socket
- Hydrovane weight
- Calibrate speed log
- Cut reefing pennants (since we are now hoisting the mainsail from the mast and no longer the cockpit, we can get rid of the excess amount of line we have on the reefing pennants)
- Secure chart table and lockers
Provisions for Atlantic Crossing to the Azores (Distance around 2600nm)
***In the next few days, we will be sailing to the Azores, which we expect to take us about 4 weeks. Wish us luck!!***
This last year has flown by! Mattis and I had spent a year away from our boat. We intended to be away for around six months, so we could work whilst it was hurricane season in the Caribbean. We could save up again and return at the end of the season, which would have been October/November 2018. We had more work than expected and came back at the beginning of April 2019 instead.
Friday 5th April 2019
We flew to Trinidad via New York, so we stayed in the Big Apple for one night and did some exploring.
Saturday 6th April 2019
The next evening, we arrived at the marina around midnight. The familiar warmth and humidity hit us as soon as we got outside of the terminal. We were glad to be back! Once we dropped our bags off, we headed straight for Jingo to see what kind of condition she was in after being in a tropical climate for a year.
We were a little apprehensive. We didn't know what to expect, whether there would be flooding inside the boat, due to the rain over the year, trickling down the mast, collecting in the bilges and possibly overflowing. We also didn't know whether there would be mold inside from the humidity. It was difficult not to worry when we were so many miles away, across the other side of the Atlantic, but there was nothing we could have done until we returned and had a look for ourselves.
Below are photos of when we first arrived back to Trinidad...
Then we finally opened her up. We were so relieved that there was no flooding or a single speck of mold! Everything was just as we had left it. It felt so great being back with Jingo again and it felt very different being back this time. We were about to start a new adventure! And this time, there would be much shorter passages as we'd be cruising up the Caribbean islands, which would be day hops, if that. We planned to spend the next two to three weeks at the marina, preparing Jingo for sailing again, making improvements, installing new equipment and making her lighter..
Sunday 7th April 2019
Last year on 1st August 2018, we learned that in the early evening there was an earthquake that was 7.9 on the Richter Scale! We had no idea. We were so focused on the possibility that there could be a hurricane sweeping through the Caribbean, that we didn't think there could be earthquakes.
Unfortunately, the earthquake had affected the marina, in particular, the buildings on the waterfront. It damaged the structure of the marina restaurant less than 100 metres from where Jingo was standing for the year. The damage was so great that the building had to be demolished. Luckily for us there was no damage to our boat. Below shows what the restaurant looked like last March and what the site currently looks like, whilst they are rebuilding...
Monday 8th April 2019
Once the boat was cleared out and we'd moved back onboard, we made a start on all of the jobs that we needed to do....
We received our new sprayhood, boom cover and awning. We were more than excited to finally have shade in the cockpit. Last February/March time, when we were anchored in the Maroni River in French Guiana just 5 degrees north of the equator, we were sweltering in the heat. During the day, it would get too warm and humid sitting inside and we'd get blasted with the sun if we were to sit in the cockpit. And there was definitely no jumping into the muddy river for us, as one, swimming is not recommended in these murky waters and two, there were caymans living in the river. Coming from the UK and Ireland, where it doesn't get this hot and humid ever, we hadn't thought of what the living conditions would be like... Now we know and are being more prepared.
There were early morning starts for us, waking up at 0530 everyday and working until 1800, when the sun went down. 2100 was definitely "Sailor's Midnight" for us!
Tuesday 9th April 2019
We continued work in the engine room, aligning the engine, servicing the engine ready for use again, reinstalling the rudder, installing an anode on the shaft and polishing the topsides...
Jobs on the Fuel Tank and in Engine Room
Jobs on the Propellor
Below shows what the rudder looked like without an anode on the propellor in July 2017 and what we now have...
This was how Jingo looked on a daily basis, after we'd woken up and got to work...
We were getting there after a one week (with a moment every now and again for a coconut and a roti from the Roti Hut)...
We started looking at our charts in more detail, deciding on which islands to visit. So many to choose from, seven thousand in total! We have a limited schedule, with approximately four-five weeks to spend in the Caribbean, it was pretty hard to choose which ones. We were asking ourselves do we island hop our way up the Caribbean, or do we pick just a few islands and spend a week in each, getting to know those islands a little better? We chose the latter.
Lightning Protection System and Safety Measure, 18th April 2019
We were caught in one lightning storm last year, and apart from heaving-to to stop the boat, putting all of the electronics we could into our oven to protect them from any lightning strikes and waiting out the storm, we decided that it would be in our interest to increase our lightning protection, especially whilst sailing in a tropical climate (and for future passages too).
We thought about installing an air terminal at the top of the mast. Mattis made a long thin aluminium conductor with a sharp point at the end as part of our lightning protection, but we decided not to in the end, and just disconnect the VHF aerial in a storm.
We fitted a copper grounding strip, which would be bonded to the side of the hull. This was so that if we were to get struck by lightning, the hope would be that the charge from the bolt of lightning would be dissipated by the copper grounding strip and straight into the water, away from the boat. Rather than the bolt of lightning ripping through the side of the hull, blowing a hole in it.
We've ordered a series drogue, which in the event of a storm we will be able to stream off the stern to slow the boat right down, and keep the waves stern on to stop us from capsizing.
We've now installed an AIS (Automatic Identification System) transceiver, which allows other vessels to see us on their AIS, as previously we had only a receiver (we could see other vessels that transmitted).
New B&G navigation system we installed last April...
We previously had five separate round dials on the console in the cockpit that we used for measuring our depth, speed, wind direction, position.
But some (most!) of them were not working or not reliable, for example the depth readings would go completely awry once we started our engine. So we took out all of these dials and replaced them with one system, a B&G Triton2 display, along with a combined depth sounder and speed log, and a barometer. It will allow us to view:
The backlighting display is useful too for our watches at night, instead of taking readings from the dials, which had dim lighting... We're very excited to use this at sea and see how much of a difference it makes to our sailing!
Below shows what the original cockpit console looked like in July 2017, when we had Jingo in Cornwall, UK, followed by the work we did when we ripped out the old dials and replaced them with a single unit in March 2018...
We began to look at what provisions we'd need for cruising up the Caribbean and how much space we'd need for food and water. We used all of our spare bottles that we had onboard to top up with fresh water as well as cleaning our two water tanks and re-filling them. Surprisingly, we found five brand new 5L bottles of water, that we hadn't used from Cape Verde. We think we should be alright with water and food as all of the islands we'll be heading to will only be a day's sail apart (or less).
Saturday 20th April 2019
We did most of our provisioning at the Central Market, near Port of Spain. With ploughing on with the work on Jingo, in preparation for going back into the water, it was the first time we'd been out into town since we'd arrived two weeks ago. It was probably the friendliest and most diverse market we have been to so far. We left with a few others from the marina at 0600 to get to the market early and we had an hour and a half to look around and get everything we needed. The fish market was a little quieter as it was Easter weekend, but the fruit and vegetable market was definitely busy. We had a fun morning looking for unusual and interesting new fruits and vegetables to eat whilst underway and at anchor!
We'd see lots of interesting animals around the marina...
Monday 22nd April 2019
Mattis went up the mast once again, to reeve in the last of our halyards. We were making the final preparations now before putting Jingo back into the water, the next afternoon...
Below shows what our chart table looked like back in July 2017 (apologies for Jib in the photos!). We took out the original log, Clipper Navtex and other units we weren't using and replaced them with our AIS (Automatic Identification System) transceiver and the original barometer from the bulkhead...
Tuesday 23rd April 2019
We launched Jingo back into the water! This was only our second time launching the boat. The last time was back in July 2017, after we'd spent a year and a half making Jingo seaworthy for offshore sailing.
This time was very different, as we'd spent seven weeks working on Jingo last year in Trinidad and two weeks now on our return, making the boat simpler, making her lighter as well as installing a few more pieces of navigation and safety equipment.
Lifting in and last few checks...
Wednesday 24th April 2019
READY TO SET SAIL!! The first island we'll sail for will be Union Island, which is about 110nm north of Trinidad. Over the next few weeks we will be cruising up the chain and getting to know the islands...
Where We Plan to Sail in the Caribbean after Trinidad...
We'd love to see so many of the islands in the Caribbean, but we are on a schedule to leave Antigua for the Azores towards the end of May, latest June. So far, we have a rough plan. Have a look at the map below:
1) Union Island
3) Tobago Cays (spending about 5-6 days here on these islands)
4) Bequia (to spend a week here)
5) Martinique (to spend a week here)
6) Antigua (to spend a week here before we make our crossing to the Azores, which is about 2000nm)
You can start tracking us again and see where we are on our Garmin inReach. Here is our link:
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