The next few days we searched, at low speeds, for that legendary, ‘reliable’ trade wind breeze.
To pass the time and increase our speed we tried different sail combinations, and experimented with the small jib top as a water sail.
Trying out different sail combinations.
Both gennakers have been left in their bags for the trip to avoid any risk of losing one over the side, and this severely reduces our downwind sail options, not-to-mention our speed. We need them for the Panerai Classic Yacht Challenge in Antigua, and I can’t afford to lose one due to too few crew on board – we normally race and pull in the gennaker with up to 16 crew.
Eventually the breeze arrived, more easterly than expected, but with a constant 15-22 knots we managed to increase our day’s average and get closer to our destination.
On the 22nd February we held our half-way party, a tradition I have kept since my ocean baptism on the 3-masted schooner ‘Adix’. The theme was TROPICANA and everybody had to dress up for a cocktail at sunset. The crew went to some effort and appeared around 17.30 all kitted out.
I can just imagine a ship passing close by, binoculars at the ready, and seeing something out of a Robinson Crusoe movie! There was a pineapple, a fruity Chef, a cannibal, a salty sailor, Jungle Jim, flag man, a leather bow tie and Julius Ceasar.
The theme may have been diluted somewhat, but it was great to have all crew assembled in the cockpit so that we could toast the four trans-Atlantic first-timers.
24 hours later, well-rested and with a new watch system in place, we had time to carry out jobs on deck, your biggest enemy while at sea for a long period of time is chafe.
Constant checks are made on the running rigging (lines, blocks, etc) both on deck and aloft, and ways found to minimalize it.
Giovanni climbed aloft for regular rig inspections, and Jesse immersed herself in leather work making chafe protectors for all 19 bottle screw connections.
Edoardo re-stitched the cruising main slides as they gave way under the slack, vicious movements of the canvas, due to the light airs encountered.
Fishing was our other focus, and having had no success between the Canaries and Cape Verdes we finally started to catch fish daily.
The most regular visitor to be hauled onto the aft deck was Mahi Mahi (dorado) which, if they were too small, would be thrown back to live another day.
Otherwise, Giovanni would skillfully fillet them and Chef would have a recipe ready to go, and would cook up a feast. We also caught a Wahoo and one tuna, very much appreciated by Yoichi!
-Jesse taking control of the leather work-
-A happy Chef!-
-Catch of the day!-
-Polishing the brass-
-Polishing the brass-
-Engineer Stefano working away-
Late afternoon on the 23rd January we hoisted the Cruising Main, storm staysail and storm jib and sailed peacefully out from Mindelo. We headed south around the island of Santo Antao and went in search of the trade wind breeze that would carry us out to the west.
Each of the crew placed a bet for the day and time of arrival in St Martin.
I went for a fast time to arrive on the 29th February, an average boat speed of 8 knots, maybe with a little too much faith considering the lack of breeze and lack of downwind sails on board.
Late afternoon I smelt gas in the saloon; Engineer Stefano and I took the oven off her gimbaled mounts, and found an irreparable hole in the gas pipe. Fortunately, we were just over a day’s sail from the Cape Verde islands and we altered course accordingly.
I was imagining what life would have been like if this problem had been found 3 or 4 days later, having turned due west into the Atlantic and away from the Cape Verde islands. Cold food for 10-15 days, no tea for the 3 English and 1 Japanese on board, and even worse, no coffee for the 4 Italian crew! I think there would have been some inventive solutions.
We managed a 24 hour run of 181 miles as we headed to Mindelo on the island of Sao Vincente, and after 36 hours in a marina, we had the gas pipe fixed, a crew-bonding night out and a new supply of fresh fruit and veg.
Down below can be more interesting.
The galley is the most challenging location especially when we are heeling significantly on the port tack. The lockers that stow the dry food, the cutlery, plates and cups, and the fridge, are all positioned on the port side(in this case the high side), opening inboard.
As a result, the speed at which you find yourself opening and closing the lockers and fridge improves daily, in an attempt to avoid an avalanche of fresh fruit and vegetables, the odd container of pre-prepared sauce or one or two rock solid canned goods!
A cup of tea or coffee becomes a major challenge and once made you still have to get it on deck! Off watch means one can get some shut-eye in the luxury of their mahogany cabin, sparsely furnished with a reading light, hanging locker (wardrobe) and a few lockers.
Each bunk is equipped with a lee-cloth, which is attached under the mattress and rises to about 30 cms for the length of the bunk.
A line from each end is attached to eyebolts in the bunk or frame above.
The lee-clothes provide a very comfortable and comforting barrier that prevents you being thrown across the cabin, and all the crew had theirs ‘made fast’ within 24 hours of departure.
-Off Watch in the saloon-
On our 4th and 5th days at sea, the wind had veered to Easterly and increased to Force 6/7 and gusting at Gale Force 8.
We shortened sail by taking the mizzen down and by replacing the jib with the smaller and tougher storm jib.
The staysail and Cruising main remained up and pulled us along merrily.
It was under these conditions that we clocked 201 miles in 24 hours and this remained the record for the trip.
Eilean was steaming along, and with this supposed to be her 37th crossing she sure seemed to be happy with the familiar, at times frantic, ocean swell.
As Eilean sailed onwards, a permanent heel makes life interesting for the crew.
Maneuvering on deck is always carried out with safety in mind, weight low, one hand for yourself – one for the boat!