Sail away with Paul Chopin.
A blog highlighting the steps taken to purchase a yacht, getting out to sail her and the adventures, not to mention the cost(!) in putting her to sea.
ARC+ 2018: Cape Verde to St. Lucia.
And so the start was just as expected..... close to the back of the fleet. I had asked for an 11:30 departure but it was closer to 12:30. Then we had to fuel up, which took ages as one yacht that had arrived from Gran Canaria was taking its time on the fuel pump. Once fuelled we crossed the start line and the engine was switched off, not to be used again until we cross the finish line. We had expected light winds, as forecast, but we seemed to be making good progress and passed a few yachts with collapsing cruising chutes. The first few hours went well, but after that, all the yachts around us were searching for the missing wind. Happy Destiny (hi Rudi) passed in front of our bow twice before the night was out, and was managing to find some wind from somewhere as it was still flying its 'chute'. It was interesting to see all the yacht lights around us, but these would diminish in the next 24 hours, only to be seen on the AIS Chart Plotter.
Distance covered: 32nm. Distance to go: 2060nm.
Little mileage made until late morning when the winds came, earlier than expected. Initially one reef was put in but as the wind speeds picked up, a further reef was added. During the course of the 24 hour period 166nm was covered, an excellent amount, but still behind on our average daily rate. Wally won the prize, another euro, for guessing the maximum distance covered in a 24 hour period. So early in the Rally too. Just a few navigation lights seen tonight and less on the AIS.
Distance covered: 90nm. Distance to go:1970nm.
Still good progress being made, we are being tracked by Concubine, Salana and Yavas Yavas, by AIS. But as the day evolves different courses are being taken by these yachts, trying to gain the most from the winds. Still high, mostly in the low 20's but gusting in excess of 30kts.
Distance covered: 166nm. Distance to go: 1804nm
Taking advantage of the winds we are getting further from the rhumb line but it's a balancing act between miles under our belt on a westerly heading or going further south to be closer to the rhumb line. Our view is to take advantage of these winds. Problems with the heads. Initially it was slow to flush but now it just isn't. Not a task I am looking forward to sorting out, but it has to be. We still have at least a further two weeks at sea and I need a happy crew. Tonight's theme night was 'Poetry Night'. We all had to draft our own poem, recite it and then select the winner. Guido won tonight's competition. My attempt is listed below.
Distance covered: 128nm. Distance to go: 1676nm.
It was on the sailing yacht Corryvreckan
A crew of four did I beckon
To sail with me
Across the sea
To lands you wouldn't reckon.
As skipper of the boat
I had the final vote
Which crew should come along
Wally I knew as former crew
Paul, he said, I want to say
I've sailed the Bay of Biscay
I'm your recruit
And you have to salute
His desire to give it a go.
Ian I met last year
And over a beer
I told him my plans for the Arc
That's interesting he spoke
Truly this is no joke
But would you consider me
To be your number three.
Just one left to find I think
And to Ocean crewing link
An advert was placed to find the stallion
It wasn't too long
Before the team so strong
Was added to by Guido, an Italian.
I had got my four
And what's more
They all brought to the table
Strengths of all manner
Proving to me, just what I could see
That the team more than able.
We set sail from Gibraltar
But the crew was to alter
As we headed for Gran Canaria
Cedric, a man of the sea
And a great friend to me
Had sailed round the world twice
But equally as nice,
Was Gershon, a pleasant Israeli
Who previously crewed for me.
After six days and nights at sea
Land finally came into view
It was a welcome return
And just to confirm
Far better than the cockpit pew.
A drink ashore
Could we ask for more?
Well some did and called for a double
The following day
I'm sorry to say
Was really not worth the trouble.
Cedric and Gershon
We're soon to be gone
Returning to their respective homestead
But equally as fast
Guido and Ian came at last
To fill the crew spaces vacated.
The day of departure arrived on a Sunday
To be greeted with my sighs of dismay
The crew wanted to go and eat
A cooked breakfast as a treat
But left it too late in the day
By the time they had finished
The start time had diminished
And we were slow to get away.
Cape Verde here we say
Should be a pleasant sail today
But it turned out to be
More than eight days at sea
And not the way we wanted it to be.
Where is the wind when you need it
Why do we just bob around in the boat
Someone up there
Is not being fair
And we're not liking it one bit.
With over 340nm to go
The passage was exceedingly slow
Frustratingly for all of us
And with a great deal of fuss
The engine was used
But not abused
Just to get to Cape Verde to be last!
Celebratory drinks on arrival
And not just for our survival
Too much was put away
So that the following day
I regret to say
Was just the same as before
Our time in Cape Verde was much too short
Three days remain before leaving the port
Lots still to do the last result didn't matter
We'd be ready on time was the chatter
But breakfast again was the order of the day
To the point where we would have to pay
Arriving at the start line just in time
Sensing the urgency of the pack
To follow the fleet right at the back
Of dear, here comes St. Lucia.
Still favourable winds but now we have put out the pole to go on a more WSW heading. Still maintaining a good speed, and looking to cover a healthy 6kts per hour. Hopefully, with a change of course we should have a more comfortable ride, rather than being pushed sideways with each rolling wave. Breakfast was a delightful sausage egg and tomato creation with a Cape Verde roll. One item not being missed are their rolls. I've not tasted anything 'quite like them'!! The task I wasn't looking forward to sorting has got to be tackled. Rubber gloves and wellingtons donned, I set about removing the toilet discharge pipe. Expecting more to flow out from the pipe I braced myself for both smell and liquid. Neither was in any quantity. I could see a large build up of calcium at the end of the plastic connector where the discharge pipe is connected. A small sharp instrument was needed to extract this ball of calcium, blocking the outflow. Pipe reconnected, the heads was tested to see if the problem was fixed. Better but not good enough. Discharge pipe removed once again, but this time I tested it to see if it was working well enough before reconnecting. It was, and needless to say, I needed a good shower once all the mess was cleaned up! Tonight we shall have a beef stew, one that I made earlier in my Mr D slow cooker.
Distance covered: 143nm. Distance to go: 1533nm.
Quite a dark sky in the early hours of the morning. No points of reference to sail to, stars, moon and clouds were all absent in their appearance. The only way you could tell if the heading was changing was to listen to the sails. The Hydrovane self steering device is not fully functional but works sufficiently to the point we do not have to steer by hand. However, every now and again the Hydrovane would meander off course and we needed to be aware of this. The winds are beginning to drop from the low 20's to mid teens, meaning our speed is going to drop. We are also sailing to high off the rhumb line so the pole has been set to the port side and main sail to the starboard side, to enable us to gybe and to sail on a more south westerly heading. A little bit of skulduggery has taken place on my watch. Initially we were going to head much further south than the rhumb line to pick up stronger winds. However, this would be countered by strong opposing currents. So the decision to remain as we are was taken which meant I could remove the waypoint I had set, resulting in a tremendous 56nm covered in our four hour watch. I have held my hands up to the other team, telling them of my changes. Somehow, I don't think they are going to allow us to claim this distance covered. It does mean that we are some nine hours closer in our arrival at St. Lucia! Food consumed today: breakfast, fried egg roll, (I went for the healthy yoghurt), salad for lunch and beef stew once again for supper. I don't think the crew can complain at that.
Distance covered: 153. Distance to go: 1380nm.
Winds still a moderate 12 - 18 kts so speed limited to around 5 kts with one reef in the main and full poled out head sail. We can still see (on the AIS) 'Concubine' in the distance,some 12nm ahead of us. Taking a similar route to us, we may be able to catch and pass her, but we will need to shake out the last reef. We decided that we would gybe, which meant exchanging the poled out headsail and the main sail to the other side of the boat. Breakfast was 'plastic' croissant with 'plastic' cheese and ham. No lunch today but supper was another beef stew with a few chilli flakes added to give it a bite of a bite. A change of crew today. I teamed up with Wally, giving me a double shift in order to put this in place. Guido was now with Ian, so he had the added bonus of not having to do his watch. However, little does he know that pay back time is in six days when there is another switch of crew. Concubine has now dropped off the AIS tracking system and now there are no longer any boats visible on the chart plotter. We are out here on our own!
Distance covered: 127nm. Distance to go: 1253nm.
As one day rolls into another we are closing in on the half way point. A time to reflect on my thoughts of the passage so far. To be perfectly honest it has not lived up to what I had imagined it to be. Although not cold I had expected the weather to be considerably warmer than it is. Yes, we can sit in shorts for 24 hours, but I thought my tan would be topped up by now and the tops of my thighs are still white! The seas conditions are very similar to those we see in the Mediterranean. Where are all the big high rollers? The only time that we have seen anything close to these was on the occasion when we stopped off for a swim before arriving in Cape Verde. Even then the seas were flat. The boat is being knocked from side to side, which was expected, but more frequently than I imagined. The squalls that we have seen to date have been short lived and the wind strength associated with them has not been much higher than 30kts. However, as we close in on the Caribbean, these will become more frequent and possibly more typical of my expectations. Wind strength is probably the only aspect of the passage that has been consistent with my thoughts. BF 4/5 with the odd 6 thrown in for good measure. Our passage to St. Lucia may well be slightly quicker than previously thought, which isn't a bad thing, but generally, it hasn't lived up to the hype. I just hope it doesn't now come and bite me in the backside! One fishing vessel seen and avoiding action taken by the on watch crew, assisted by Wally. Tonight we have a 'Song' theme night. No, that has just been changed, so I've been informed. It is now a quiz night, with Wally as our quiz master. Run over two parts, I won the first part. The second part will be decided on Thursday. Lunch was supposed to have been an 'easy' one to throw together. Ian wanted powered mash potato mixed with cheese, ham and I added the last of the tomatoes to it. The only throwing was the powered mash all over the galley and me, as the boat was knocked from side to side by a rogue roller. Elbow injured and floor, cooker and work surfaces cleaned up, the meal was then served up to the delight of Ian! Supper was, once more another pork (?) stew. Only two more lots of fresh meat left before we have to break open the tins. Champagne already in the fridge for when we cross the halfway point tomorrow.
Distance covered: 137nm. Distance to go: 1116nm.
What an 'interesting' day. Winds were supposed to be between 15 and 20 kts all day (and for the next couple of days). When Wally and I took the helm at 00:00 the winds were close to 20, with gusts up to 24kts. During the course of our watch these increased to a constant 24+ with gusts closer to 30kts. We had full sails out and we're getting a real roller coaster ride. At 04:00, when Ian and Guido took over they experienced similar winds but the Hydrovane began playing up. When we came back at 08:00 the decision to reef was called which calmed things down, but then we had to put a further reef in because the winds began to increase even further. Pity, because the winds have now subsided. The conclusion of the second part of the quiz night saw another bit of 'Wally manipulation' take victory away from my grasp. We had to come up with the names of as many lines, sheets, steel cables etc, that control the yacht. As it was my boat I had 10 deducted from my score. By the time scores of both parts were added together it was declared a three way tie! No justice there then. At 11:02 we hit the midpoint in our crossing, 1045nm covered, 1045nm still to go. Celebration time with a bottle of champagne, with cheese and salami rolls, followed by a thick soup. The crew complained that the last serving was rather watery, which I hasten to add was not made by me, so this time I put in at least 10 packets of various flavours. You needed a spoon to drink the cup of soup! A few sea birds seen flying close to the yacht, a thousand miles from land. And we are now in AIS company of two fellow ARC+ yachts, Ardnagee and Itchycoo Park. We have seen the mast of Ardnagee, some 5nm off our port side but Itchycoo Park is too far ahead to see over the horizon. First boats we have literally seen for over a week.
Distance covered: 148nm. Distance to go: 968nm.
Again, a day when winds were meant to be light. Another call in the early hours of the morning as the on watch crew experienced gusts in excess of 30 kts. The main had two reefs already in so we could only shorten the head sail. Once the squall passed the winds lowered to mid teens but we decided to leave the sails as they were for most of the day, shaking out one reef late in the afternoon and unfurling the head. Boat speed was now just around the 5kts, still on target to arrive in St. Lucia for the 07.12.18. but we would like it to be faster. Another new yacht seen on AIS. Not part of the Arc so not sure if they are also heading for St. Lucia. A further yacht seen on our starboard side. Too far to pick up on AIS, and surprisingly, appearing to sail in the opposite direction!
Distance covered: 130nm. Distance 838nm.
Winds still light, so when daylight appears we shall set up the parasailor and see if that will give us more boat speed. Hoping it will give us at least one more knot. At first light the parasailor was deployed, once again, not very successfully. Raising it was not an issue. The problem was that we still had the main sail up and this was causing a wind shadow ahead of the parasailor. I had this problem the first time I tried to fly it. Lesson not learnt yet! Winds slightly better now an getting over 5kts per hour. Not brilliant but enough to get us in on the 7th. Lunch was thick soup, three packs of 'cup a soup' per cup per person, followed by cheese and crackers. Supper, not my best, was chorizo casserole. The sausage was not what I expected and disintegrated during the cooking process. Extremely oily as well. One to avoid for the future. Theme night tonight was 'sing a song'. It was agreed that Ian won the honours. My attempt was to recall several pieces from the Pirates of Penzance, taught to me when at school some 50+ years ago! There, Mr Ross, I did listen (occasionally) to what you said. We both had an interest in something, no, not drama, but a fellow student by the name of Tina Pelham. What ever happened to her. She drifted out of our lives at the end of year 11, never to be seen or heard of since. My choice of theme night for next Wednesday, we'll it's got to involve numbers hasn't it? Another yacht has come up on AIS and has made contact with us over VHF radio. Serenity First, an Elan Impression 43 (same boat as yours Kevin). She left Cape Verde a day after us and is heading for Martinique. Not part of the Arc fleet.
Distance covered: 120nm. Distance to go: 718nm.
Winds freshening, we have had a good day distance wise. The forecast was for winds between 15 - 20kts. These have been closer to 20 and gusting up to 25kts, giving us a boat speed over 6kts. We still have one reef in the main sail but full head sail. During the course of the day we lose sight of Serenity First off the chart plotter. No other vessels around but I'm sure we will start to see some as we close in to St. Lucia. The yacht is passing through more and more patches of sargasso seaweed. Badly affecting steerage, both on the main rudder and the Hydrovane, and slowing down the Watt and Sea generator. At one time we had to 'hove to' to clear the weed as it was virtually impossible to maintain any course. Lunch once again was soup and cheese and crackers. Supper was a creation using the last of the fresh vegetables and some tinned food. Another stew, supplemented with tinned mushrooms and grilled bacon!
We are going to have to begin using more tinned foods so storage of rubbish will be an issue.
Distance covered: 137nm. Distance to go: 581nm.
Still having a good run in, although still struggling with clearing the weed off the Hydrovane. During the course of the day we have had to either use the boat hook to knock the weed off the rudder or 'hove to'. Each time we 'hove to' loses time which in turn, means less miles covered. It's probably going to be a continuous job from now on until we get to St. Lucia. A change of crew today with Guido coming back to team up with me for the last few days. Winds higher than forecast, in the mid to high 20's has produced our second best distance in 24hrs since leaving Cape Verde, 157nm. Lucy has been the same as the previous three days, soup de jour with crackers. Supper, a delightful Fray Bentos Steak and Kidney pie, (well two), and a huge serving of instant mash potato mixed with onions and garlic. As both of these were left to cook or re-heat in the oven, once again, we had to hove to, as a matter of safety. The oven didn't heat up sufficiently to give the pie a crusty top, but it was edible.
Distance covered: 157nm. Distance to go: 424nm.
Winds have not abated but have changed direction slightly, forcing us north of the rhumb line. We shall put a gybe in later today to get us on a more WSW heading. With the higher winds we still have the two reefs in and the head sail has now been reduced significantly. Every now and again a rogue wave comes out of nowhere and kicks the starboard side of the yacht. What isn't tied down below goes flying across the saloon / galley. The salt and pepper pots have emptied their contents several times! When the next 'on watch' crew change appear we put in the gybe to get us back towards the rhumb line. One of the unintended consequences of this is that the Watt and Sea generator, used to charge up the batteries, is not running efficiently. On this tack the propellor spends more time out of the water than in it! We'll just have to monitor the battery charging more closely than we have done to date. Another consequence is that the boat is rolling much more from side to side, making standing up even more difficult than usual. However, we are making good progress and heading back towards our route. Thankfully we seem to have passed through the worst of the sea weed, the steering is lighter and the Hydrovane is holding its course better. Lunch was a serving of scrambled eggs and supper another stew. This time a tin of Irish stew and a can of corn beef were added to the fresh vegetables.
Distance covered: 138nm. Distance to go: 286nm.
Boat still rolling from side to side but we can live with this as we are ploughing through the miles. If winds continue, as forecast for the rest of the day, we should be looking at arriving in St. Lucia early Friday morning. I think all the crew, myself included, are looking forward to setting foot on land again. I'm not sure how steady on our feet we'll be, and that's before we have a drink! Tonight's theme night is my choice so I've set the rest of the crew a series of number sequence questions to answer. Hopefully they should get most, if not all correct as they are not that challenging - except the last one on the Binomial expansion. However, I have given hints on how to do this. Wind has dropped off but we are still managing to cover 20+nm per 4hr watch. Lunch was a concoction of boil up egg noodles, tinned frankfurters and a carbonara sauce. Not my best creation but it went down well with the crew. Supper was the same as the previous night. After supper came the number sequences theme night which, as one crew commented, was like being back at school. All did very well but the prize went to Wally - he did do A level maths many moons ago!
Distance covered: 129nm. Distance to go: 157nm.
Awoken at midnight for my watch to be told one of my large burgundy ball fenders had jumped ship. Another item to replace when I get back to the UK. At hand over Wally commented that the sky was getting very dark and that squalls might be approaching. Guido, at the helm, also stated that this was the first time we had full sails out at night. Within minutes of these comments the winds and rain were upon us and it was a roller coaster ride for the next 20 odd minutes. Wind speed around 40kts with driving rain meant that hand steering was the only option. Thankfully Ian hadn't gone off so together we managed to reduce the head sail. When there was a lull in the wind Wally was asked to help with putting a reef in the main sail. Now that the squall has passed the wind has died to less than 8kts. With very little wind to drive the boat forward the Hydrovane is struggling to hold course so, back to hand steering. In the last two hours we have only covered 8nm, and most of that was due to the strong westerly current pushing us along. So close to St. Lucia but the end of the journey is being drawn out. However, as we hand over to the next watch team the winds begin to pick up again and by the end of the day we have made good mileage. Lunch was back to the trusted soup and crackers and cheese. Supper was made by Guido, an Italian pasta dish with grated Parmesan. Very nice. As we have got closer to the island the call, land Ho, was made by Wally at 21:10. I think everyone appreciated seeing land once again after some 17 days at sea, but the thought of cold beers may well have been more appealing as we are within touching distance.
Distance covered: 127nm. Distance to go 30nm.
Today is the day we land at St. Lucia. This was the day Wally pick as his 'arrival day' some two weeks ago. We are ahead of his time of 19:00 (UTC), but he wins the sweepstake prize...... of one euro. Excitement abounds and it won't be too long into this day before we round the northern part of St. Lucia and make our way into Rodney Bay marina. Hopefully the Arc 'yellow shirts' will be their to assist with our berthing and then it will be party time! We have arrived, crossed the finish line at 01:14 (local time) after nearly 17 days at sea and covering over 2000nm. My thoughts and emotions will be considered in time but as we moor up all of our thoughts are just on having that first drink! I have saved a lovely bottle of Moët and Chandon champagne for this moment and it will be richly deserved by all crew. Without them the passage would not has been possible. Well, maybe it would with a different crew,but not as enjoyable. They have been the mainstay in my desire to complete this challenge, and we have done so without a cross word being spoken in the whole passage, from Gibraltar to St. Lucia. We have been welcomed ashore by the yellow shirt (Arc staff) and members from the St. Lucia tourist board with rum punches for the crew and a basket of fruit for the yacht. The rum went down well before I cracked open the champagne. The bottle was too small so the vodka (mixed with coke) was the next to be attacked. This was bought to anesthetise the fish we caught before killing it, but as we had no joy in catching any the bottle was never put to use until now. It's going to be a late wake up call for tomorrow ( or today!) as it is now Saturday. Before too long I'm pushed into the water as another part of the celebrations. Such is life. I do need to thank Helen Ames for having the patience and allowing me to undertake such a crossing, my brothers Michael and Frank for their support and weather routing during the crossing, the encouragement from friends, and most importantly the crew, Wally, Ian and Guido. Well done to all.
A selection of photos taken between Cape Verde and St. Lucia.
1. Wally preparing the vegetables for supper.
2. One of the few occasions we flew the parasailor sail - not very successfully.
3. Mr. D's cooking pot. A lovely purchase providing us with hot, fulsome meals daily.
4. Me, at the helm, on one of the numerous night watches.
5. Head sail, poled out for the majority of the passage.
6. The crew; Ian, myself, Guido and Wally, celebrating with a glass of champers.