ARC + 2018:Gran Canaria to Cape Verde.
Our leisurely pace to the start line put us somewhere at the back off the pack of 72 yachts of all shapes and sizes. I remember at the skippers briefing the day before being told to stay off the island by at least 10nm for lighter winds (but choppier seas) and to avoid the acceleration zone just south of the airport. I had forgotten the information about the wind shadow, south of the island, which could stretch for at least 75nm. Well, I got at least one of these correct! Initially, I did stay off the island by 10nm, but then I reverted back to my old bad habits of looking at the course I had set, the wind angles and opportunity of taking the shortest possible track. It made sense to begin with as we started to make good speed and to return to the rhumb line. Bad move. Once south of the island we found that wind shadow and the boat speed dropped and dropped.
Still bobbing along for much of the morning. By midday we stated to build up some speed and by evening we were racing along. Squalls appeared, the rain hammered down (which we should have collected!) and the seas got lively. For much of the night we made good progress, even if the ride was somewhat akin to being on a roller coaster. Main sail had one reef and head furled by half. The Hydrovane was not working, again, and we had to resort to using the autopilot, which was functional. It was not the time to start trying to fix the problem, that could be done in daylight, and in calmer seas.
Much of the day was similar to yesterday, without the heavy rain. In daylight I scrambled up the solar panel gantry to find out the issue with the Hydrovane. It was just a case of tightening the remote steering line that alters the direction of travel. Once done it was back in use and the autopilot switched off for another day.Contact was made with passing cargo ships for updates in the weather forecast, and we even made contact with a fellow competitor. We were not last! The pole that had been set up to hold out the headsail had become detached at the sail end and all crew were on deck sorting out the problem. Thankfully it was rectified and back in operation. The battery monitor was showing an alarm on the service batteries. As we are on the wrong tack, the Watt and Sea prop of the generator is not always submerged in water, and therefore not efficiently charging the batteries. We need to keep an eye on the situation.
A disappointing day all round. During the early hours of the morning good progress was being made and we had caught up and passed a couple of yachts. Then, just after 08:00 the winds dissipated and the decision was made to drop the main and polled out head sail and fly the parasailor. Initial flying was not good but eventually, as the wind stabilised, it fly well and we started to see an increase in boat speed. However, this was not long lived. Wind dropped to less than 6 kts and the parasailor started to collapse around the head sail. No good, we had to douse the sail and bring it in. As we did, the lines for raising and lowering the sock got caught around the radar. As I type, several hours later this is where they remain. Must sort it out tomorrow, one way or another. A clevis pin attaching one of the guard rail wires fell out and must be replaced in Cape Verde. Winds are moderate, in the region of 10 - 14 kts so we have full main and piled out head sail. The Watt and Sea generator is not producing as much power as anticipated and is constantly being monitored. Don't want to keep switching the fridge on and off! The yachts that we passed last night have shown us their heals and are just a just a symbol on the chart plotter! Wally pointed out a couple of pilot whales or Atlantic Dolphins. Couldn't quite make out which they were, but if they were Dolphins, they were very long in the back. We need to make 140nm per day if we are to arrive in Cape Verde before the deadline and as things currently stand, this is not going to be the case. However, all is not lost, the winds may pick up and we could start to make the headway needed to arrive in Cape Verde before 18:00 UTC!
A better day in terms of distance covered. During the early hours of the morning we got more favourable winds. Sea state is quite calm although there is a tendency to roll from side to side. Thus causing both sails to flap. I thought, being on a starboard tack, the wind generator would produce more power and charge up the new batteries. This is not the case. The battery monitor on the panel is down to 12.2v, not good, especially as we have the much longer journey from Cape Verde to St. Lucia still to make. Wally has checked out the solar panels, wind generator and the Watt and Sea generator and decided that the wind generator is drawing power out of the batteries to charge up the engine battery rather than the service batteries. Power in these is now up to 12.5v. Not brilliant but better than before. In the early evening we are greeted by a fine performance from hundreds of dolphins. Two, three, four abreast, leaping out of the water, circling the yacht and arriving from all points of the compass. They stay with us for around 30 minutes before heading off to perform for another audience. Still chasing other yachts, we get to within 3nm and then they pull away again. Think this is going to be the case all the way to Cape Verde. 400nm still to go!
An extremely disappointing day. The wind has abated and, with some three hundred miles to Cape Verde and the finish time fast approaching, Sunday at 18:00, we have no option but to motor sail. Even with the engine on it is very unlikely that we will arrive much before Monday morning. We have to average 6nm per hour, and at best, we are only doing 5nm. All the crew are somewhat despondent, as it was our intention to sail from start line to finish line, but we have to be realistic. The next leg, from Cape Verde begins on Wednesday, and if we continued sailing, we may not even arrive before the set off time, and there is a lot of work to do on the yacht before we leave. Lunch is chicken wraps, and whilst making this Guido is fishing. I suggested he uses orange peel as bait, and within minutes he has hooked a large fish. The type we could not say as it then disengaged itself from the hook, not before leaping through the air to show us what we had missed! Supper has been prepared in my Mr D cooker, a beef casserole, of which there is plenty to go around. It appears that maybe some of the other yachts have followed our example and switched on their engines, as they are matching our speed with little wind to assist them! Another fish, this time landed..... by my feet. A flying fish the size of a small sprat! Not large enough to go round everyone so back in the water she goes.
Very little wind once again. During the early hours of the morning it was barely reaching two knots. I think that has justified our use of the engine to get to Mindelo on Sao Vincente. Another two fish caught by Guido, but both of them have slipped off the hook. Not sure if we are giving them plenty of time to tire out before trying to get them on the boat, but we are game to try everything. Ouch was chicken wraps with a salad and this evening a pork curry. A little under 160nm to go, so we should be moored up very late tomorrow evening.
It is now 17:00. The finishing line officially closes in one hours time and we are still some 50nm away. Somehow, with the best will in the world we are not going to get there in time! No fish bites today, although we are still trying. Looking forward to my carpaccio of tuna or sushi when we bring that first one on board. Wally and Ian saw the tail fins of a couple of whales but nothing more than that. An hour ago we stopped the yacht and had a lovely refreshing swim, mid Atlantic. Not quite the one that I thought about on the passage between Cape Verde and St. Lucia, but nice, nonetheless. It did bring to my attention that we would have difficulties bringing a man on board if, heaven forbid, they went over the side. In flat calm conditions some of the crew found it a struggle to make their own way back on to the boat. Goodness knows what it would be like if the weather was worse! Need to consider alternatives to just lowering the bathing platform. The steps would help but not if the platform is being bounced up and down with following seas. There are still several Arc+ yachts around so we will not be the last to cross the line....... in the early hours of tomorrow. The champagne is already being chilled in the fridge.
We crossed the finishing line at 00:56 this morning. Not last but pretty close to it! However, we managed to get moored up and find an open bar to celebrate our arrival with a couple of beers. Back on the boat before we hit the sack the bottle of champagne came out and was washed down with the last packet of crisps. We had covered 1000nm, had not fallen out with each other, and look forward to the next leg, nearly three times as long. The next two days will be taken up with cleaning, more cleaning and ensuring the water maker works. We have to also find a system of being able to fly the parasailor sail using the pole, to take advantage of a greater wind angle. If there is any wind. The last three days the wind has been less than 5kts!
A late breakfast meant that we were late getting to the start line! Last ones to leave Gran Canaria.
Another beautiful sunset,
somewhere in the middle of the