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.
Heading for Bermuda.
We had agreed to get up early and take a trip to the laundry to get everything cleaned before setting off. I thought I had located a self service one but it wasn't. Again, we had to haggle about a collection time, which we got down to midday. Trouble was, we had to leave the pontoon by that time! John went off to Simpson Bay to buy some items and was going to collect the laundry. Wally and I returned to the yacht, Wally to get some more fresh provisions, and I would sweet talk Alvin, the dock master, to allow us to leave slightly later than 12:00, having explained our situation. No problem was his response. It turned out that we left at 13:30, after refuelling the yacht. Now headed for Simpson Bay to test the anchor. We were unable to go into the inner lagoon, as we were to late for the midday swing bridge opening, and if we waited until the 17:30 time I would be too late for my meeting with David, for a drink, and the 17:00 Cruiser Club seminar for those sailing to Bermuda and the Azores. Anchor dropped and holding, the tender was lowered into the water, outboard attached, we were ready to visit the 'Soggy Dollar' bar. We met up with David, who will be sailing up to New York later this month and at 17:00 went to hear the seminar. What a complete waste of time. It wasn't formally organised, it turned out to be likeminded sailors gathering to chat about what they intended to do. Probably the only useful piece of information I provided was my use of the Garmin InReach Explorer. A very handy tracker that allows me to communicate with the people in my contact list, sending either email or SMS messages via satellite, without the expense of a satellite phone. The only drawback is the lack of voice communication. Back to the boat for an evening meal, a further beer and bed.
Heading off towards Bermuda... Sometime this coming week.
Last night the anchor held and today we shall lift it up and move into the inner lagoon. A radio call to the Lagoon Authority to check on opening time, 09:30, we prepared the boat in readiness for the swing bridge to be raised. At 09:15 the anchor was taken in, no problems there, and we crawled towards the entrance to the swing bridge channel. ( For those of you familiar with the Lefkas bridge, it's a similar operation). We got the green light to proceed and headed through to the lagoon. We found a place to drop the anchor, albeit a bit too close to a small yacht astern of us, but went ahead with the anchoring. Next I had to locate a rigger to sort out the second reefing point. It's absolutely essential that we have this operating as the wind charts are showing strengthening winds over the coming week. The first one contacted was too busy to fit us in on Monday. The second and third riggers are in the French part of the island so they were out of the reckoning. We were given the name of a fourth person but couldn't find the place where he operated from. We then came across another person and he said that, together with the first company, they should be able to sort out the problem, provided we drop the boom. That wasn't going to be a difficult task so we agreed to move the yacht into the Simpson Bay yacht club marina Sunday evening so they could work on the boat first thing Monday. With this problem sorted we should be able to depart for Bermuda on Tuesday.
Helen's birthday so I needed to get ashore to wish her Happy Birthday and to let her know where I had left her card and present. Trouble is, we are five hours behind and I don't really want to get up at 02:30 and get ashore at a ridiculous hour. Thankfully I'll be able to SMS her with the Garmin InReach and speak to her at a more civilised time.
Breakfast was taken in the Vesna Taverna, next to the Soggy Dollar bar. Eggs Benedict, superbly cooked, was washed down with s glass of fresh orange juice. Later that morning we met up with Rudy York and his wife Lesa. Rudy also completed the Arc+ in December and he had hired a catamaran, along with 36 friends, and had been sailing close to where we were in Sint Maarten. After a good chat it was time to get the yacht round to Simpson Bay yacht club and start removing the boom. The anchor was well and truly holding and I had to power in reverse to release it. The spot where I was told to go alongside had been taken by another yacht. Seems like he's got more problems than I have. I reversed on to a very short concrete finger thinking that there would be a lazy line to pick up. There wasn't. They yacht was being pushed by the wind onto the wall at the stern, but also the concrete finger. As the fenders were not positioned correctly I now have some gel coat repairs to get done once back in Kilada, Greece. The boom was removed and, as we had greater access to its workings with everything removed, we thought that we would inspect where the fault might be. The first problem, Bashit and Botchit, from Rodney Bay, had run the second reefing line incorrectly over the pulley. The other problem, and more serious, was that the pulley in the reefing track had dropped out and was lying somewhere in the boom. Using a sail bag batten this was pushed to the end of the boom and retrieved. However, the pin holding the pulley in place was also missing. Lifting the boom vertically and shaking it finally sent the pin to the end of the boom. With both of these items in our hands we could now reassemble the reefing system and re-install the boom. We would not be able to confirm the reefing points worked until the sail was attached, but I was confident that all looked good. That evening we went across the road and had supper in the 'Bavaria' restaurant, the same name as the make of my yacht.
Up early to begin replacing all the parts that were removed yesterday. Wally went off to do the last minute provisioning which left John and I to refit the sail, sail bag, vang and main sheets. Whilst bending on the main sail we just had a brief check that both reefing points were pulling the sail down. They were, thankfully, but a full check would have to be made once we were underway. Wally returned and started preparing meals for our passage and I went off to Immigration to check out and the marina office to pay for the nights mooring. For lunch we stopped off at the Piccolo restaurant before heading back to the marina for a quick shower before setting off. All mooring lines released at 15:00 but we had to wait until 16:00 for the swing bridge to open. It was a case of gently motoring up and down the channel until the amber light went off, the green light went on s the bridge began to be raised. Once out into the bay the yacht was turned into the wind and the main sail raised. Once past both reefing points the sail was lowered to check reefing point 1, it worked, and reefing point 2. This too was fully functional. Good to go, we headed on to our course for Bermuda, a distance of 864nm, and began to leave Sint Maarten behind us. Past Anguilia, a couple of minor islands and before too long it would be open seas between us and Bermuda.
Nothing in sight, nothing to report. Still sailing, comfortably with two reefs in and 15 to 18kts of wind just aft of the beam. The sargasso seaweed has returned and fouled the prop on the Watt and Sea generator, preventing it from spinning and producing electricity. Not an immediate problem but one that could develop when the batteries start to drain. I needed to clear the weed off the prop but how. I had put a screw into the leg of the generator to allow it to hang vertically in the water, the most efficient mode. However, the screw was not for turning. Next, drop the bathing platform and try to remove by hand. Not the best solution with the rest of the crew asleep. Needs must, and, unsuccessful, I attempted to clear the prop. The boat needed to be slowed down in order to keep it on an even keel. Crew were needed for this so I waited until Wally surfaced. With both sails slackened we managed to slow the boat sufficiently to enable me to remove the weed by hand....... not before taking in copious quantities of salty water! Normal electrical service was resumed. A constant check to prevent further build up of weed was needed. Other than that, the day has been an uneventful one.
Distance covered today: 134nm. Distance to go: 734nm.
Today sees the start of the annual Antigua to Bermuda race. It's unlikely that we shall see any of these racing sailboats for the next couple of days at least but we shall keep our eyes open. If only to say we've seen something other than a bird or fish! One commercial ship seen on the AIS monitor last night and four further vessels this morning, but none within view. The plastic problem exists mid ocean, a white plastic bucket and a plastic Jerry can with a hole in it seen. Unable to retrieve. Winds down to 6 - 8kts so for most of the time just bobbing along......very slowly! As I was just about to come off my watch at 15:00 we could see, in the distance, looming dark clouds. The head sail was quickly reefed but before we could put a reef in the main sail the winds had picked up to 18+kts. All hands on deck, we managed to turn the boat towards the wind and drop the main sail to the first reefing point. By now the winds were around 22kts and we were punching along between 7 - 8kts. This made up for the hours we had earlier at barely making 4kts in very light winds. However, it didn't last too long and within the hour we were back to the slower pace of sailing. A solitary cargo vessel was seen by eye today, the odd sea bird and flying fish and that's been the highlight for the day.
Distance covered today: 107nm. Distance to go: 627nm.
At 02:00 this morning the engine was switched on, very light winds and swinging from 120' to 170' off the bow. Insufficient to give much forward propulsion. It's likely that the engine will be on for the next 24 hours as the weather forecast did predict light winds. However, they are generally at least 1BF higher than given. Not today, they are actually lower. Still over 500nm to go and not enough fuel to motor all the way. Let's hope the winds pick up! I might have another problem with the autopilot. John had turned it on rather than using the Hydrovane. When Wally came to take his watch he heard a couple of loud clunks, similar to the ones heard when we sailed from Gibraltar to Gran Canaria last year, coming from the area of the autopilot. If as expected, it could well be the grub screw that holds the motor in place on the linear arm. Hopefully an easy fix, but one that I'll delay until we get to Bermuda. Nothing seen on AIS and only one seabird has visited us today. The sargasso seaweed continues to be a problem and we have to use the boat hook to clean it away from the Hydrovane rudder and the Watt and Sea generator. Food tonight will be a pasta dish with bolognese sauce. Wally had cooked the sauce a couple of days ago and I cooked the pasta at 12:00. Both have now been transferred to the Mr D's slow cooker, a type of large thermos flask, and should retain its heat when we have supper at 18:00. The slow cooker was a fantastic purchase by Helen when I made my East -West crossing late last year, serving up many delicious hot stews and dishes. Although the Garmin InReach Explorer has been a real benefit for this passage, I'm able to contact home via text and SMS messages, it has let me down by not providing 'premium' weather forecasts that I require. Will keep trying to overcome the issue. I have managed to get a weather forecast using the InReach now. Not sure what the problem was, but the weather for the next seven days is not favourable. Light to very light winds. Oh dear, more motoring. And with the very light winds came the issue of the wind vane not holding a steady course. Generally, it's use is when the wind is higher than 5kts and we don't have this. As a result I now have to go below and sort out the problem with the autopilot to ensure that we don't have to hand steer for the next 500nm, or until the wind is greater than 5kts! Have checked all parts to the linkage on the drive shaft and motor and all appears to be in order. I did try to take a photo of the grub screw, as it was not in my line of vision. The result was a picture of my belly button! Crew are pleased that I have said the autopilot is back in operational use.
Distance covered today: 109nm. Distance to go: 518nm.
With the light winds the sargasso weed is starting to bulk up on the main rudder and keel of the yacht, slowing the speed right down. In order to clear it the yacht will be put into reverse and, hopefully, by motoring backwards and turning to port or starboard, the weed should slide off. That's the theory. In practice? Well the boat speed has increased slightly so maybe it has worked. 06:00 brought in a squall, and with it higher winds. The boat speed has improved but unfortunately the squall didn't last long. A rainbow appeared on the horizon, so maybe we have just had our little pot of gold?
At lunch, which consisted of a salad and pizza, we could hear a clunking noise coming from somewhere. This was a new noise and needed investigating. I thought it might be the pots and pans clattering together. Wally thought it could be the spinnaker pole hitting the mast. It was neither. Somehow, the anchor had dropped forward off the bow roller and was hitting the bow as it swung back and forwards. I had forgotten to tie the anchor down, but even so, there is no way the anchor chain should have moved forward without the anchor windlass being powered on and the remote switch pressed to drop the anchor! Or, I've been given a larger gypsy for my chain, and it has slipped through. This needs checking when we get to Bermuda, and probably more gel coat repairs to do! Only thing seen today has been the seabirds.
Distance covered today: 93nm. Distance to go: 425nm.
Still heading forBermuda...... at a snails pace!
During the previous evening the winds started to pick up again, and with it, the distance covered during each watch. I had put in the first reef and reduced the head sail on my watch, and when John took over, the sail was reduced to the second reefing point. Good progress was made and I'm sure the mileage will be up by the time I take the 24hr reading. However, as is usually the case, the winds have died down again and we're back to 3 - 4kts! As the evening progressed the pace got even slower and I resorted to putting the engine on. Even so, we are still only making about 3kts. A solo yacht has been picked up on AIS. The yacht Raucous appears to be running a parallel course to us but is over 10 miles away and cannot be seen by eye.
Distance covered today: 121nm. Distance to go: 304nm.
Very little distance has been covered during the night. The wind has shifted and is more on the stern, the slowest sailing point, and without a spinnaker we shall be dawdling our way towards Bermuda. The head sail keeps on collapsing so when the rest of the crew get up I shall need to set up the pole to keep the head sail from doing this. I have removed the two reefing points, hoping for an extra bit of speed. I'm not sure I've got it. We spend days and days waiting for a ship or yacht to come into view, and today, it's like the proverbial London bus. Four have been sighted. A cruise ship off to Saint Martin, which will probably get there before we get in to Bermuda! A Chinese fishing vessel, a cargo ship heading for Gibraltar. (I ought to contact them and see if they could tow me there!). Finally a sailing yacht, I think a participant in the Antigua to Bermuda race. They have changed tack to get better wind. Should I do the same? We carry on with our current course but put the pole out to hold the head sail square to the wind. This has gained us an extra knot, which is something. Lunch was the same as yesterday, and tomorrow, chicken and salad wraps. Nice and easy to prepare and cook. Evening supper was a bit more demanding, goat curry. I suppose I could have left the bones on but I decided to remove them all before cooking. Something of a task at sea! By late evening the winds have died again and speed is....... extremely low.
Distance covered today: 93nm. Distance to go 211nm.
Still painfully slow at 01:42 in the morning. I think the last two watches of three hours duration covered a total of 22nm, and I don't think my watch will exceed 10nm! Nothing showing up on the AIS, all is quiet around except for a bit of Billy Joel playing through my headphones and the flapping of the sails...... due to the lack of wind. At 05:00 I awoke to find that the battery monitor alarm was on. My initial reaction was to go up to the cockpit to check that the prop on the Watt and Sea generator wasn't covered in weed and stopped spinning. That appeared to be fine. So, was there a problem with the generator itself? Checking the speed of the boat, less than 3kts for quite some time, it was the lack of speed trying to keep up with the discharge of batteries and failing! The generator is one of the best investments for this trip but it has its limitations. As a consequence the fridge was switched off until daylight when the solar panels would become operational. Mid morning we changed tack and this brought with it an increase in boat speed, up to and beyond 5kts. The Watt and Sea generator was back to work, charging the batteries, but then came its second limitation. With the boat heeled over the leg of the generator occasional comes out of the water. Without water to spin the prop the generator isn't always working. Ce la vie. On a positive note however, we are making much better progress and we can, metaphorically speaking, see the finishing line, albeit some 40 hours away!
Distance covered today: 91nm. Distance to go: 120nm.
Well that was an interesting day. It started at 03:00 when I came on watch. Wally told me the Hydrovane was not working properly, steering to the desired course. Okay, not a problem for me as I would hand steer, which I particularly like. The next three hours passed rather quickly as I had something to do. Next on watch was John. He does not like hand steering and prefers using the auto pilot. The condition of the sea, and the boat wallowing all over the place meant that this could also fail. And with a further 3000+ nm to go I wanted to leave this as a last resort as it failed a couple of times in the last year. I offered to share Johns stint so he had no option to moan. I also said that when Wally came back on watch we would put the pole out for the head sail and look to fixing the Hydrovane. The pole was attached, the head sail set and the Hydrovane looked at. It became apparent why the boat wouldn't hold a set course. The rudder had been twisted on the tube and was no longer pointing in the right direction. This could not be fixed at sea, so for the rest of the passage to Bermuda, less than 100nm, we would all hand steer. As we recorded the passage details at the end of the next watch we noted that there had been a big drop in the atmospheric pressure. Not 8mb in three hours, which would indicate an imminent gale, but close to this. We had already put both reefs in the main sail and reduced the head sail and were sailing along with 20 - 25kts of wind. The boat was going along very nicely and our speed was increasing. This was great. But, oh boy, were we in for a hammering. All of a sudden the wind increased to 30, 35 and then in the 40's. This was not looking good. Next thing the boat was heeling right over and the toe rail was submerged in the water. I could see the end of the boom being the next thing to go in the water so a call to the crew was issued. The head sail taken in and then it was the main sail. Unfortunately the wheel was hard over to port and I still couldn't bring the boat round into the wind to enable us to drop the sail. The engine was switched on and, in time, we managed to turn the boat to face the wind direction to allow the sail to be dropped. During this time I happened to see 49kts come up on the chart plotter screen. This is equivalent to BF 10, storm conditions, but it could have been higher! Visibility was reduced to a minimum and the sea was coming across the boat horizontally. Such was the force of the spume that when it hit the face you felt that Muhammad Ali had delivered that last punch! Thankfully, these conditions did not last too long, about 15 - 20 minutes, but we did get a repeat performance, but this time the wind strength was not in the 40's.
By the time the wind and seas had settled down we were not too far from Bermuda.
Distance covered today: 168nm Distance to go: -48nm!
We had arrived in St. Georges harbour just after 02:00 and Customs were still open to accept us. We pulled alongside the office and completed all the necessary paperwork. Back on the boat Wally and I indulged in a couple of 'Dark and Stormy' drinks, washed down with a few nibbles. When we did eventually arise, the first task was to complete the remaining customs forms, submit them and be relieved of $35US Dollars per person. The boat was moored up in the wrong place so we had to move to another spot. The Arc Europe boats were leaving today and we managed to find a place alongside the wall in the harbour, not before doing a turn around the bay and chatting to Thomas, a friend who had sailed with me a couple of times. Boat moored safely it was time to do the laundry and have a spot of lunch. After lunch the Hydrovane was looked at to identify the problem. It was the rudder that had twisted on the stock tube, and after releasing the captive nut and bolt, realigning the rudder and tiller, everything was put back and the system checked before everything was reassembled.
Thomas called by in the afternoon and later the same night we met up for a drink in a local bar. Unfortunately I was late in arriving, not taking into account the extra hour that had been added to day light saving time. It happens!
An early morning start, but there was no real need to get up so early. First task was to make breakfast, a couple of omelettes, one for Wally and me. The eggs that I used were several weeks old and by the time I had cracked open the third it was evident that these were off. Another half dozen purchased. I think it is necessary at this point to let the reader know that Bermuda is not a cheap island. Before Wally had bought the eggs I had bought a loaf of bread, a pack of grated cheese and a pack of sliced chorizo, the three items cost $19.95, the bread alone $6.45! Anyway, omelettes made and eaten, it was time to start cleaning the boat. Fridge emptied, washed and restocked, the bilges dried, the floors swept and bins emptied. Next was to see why the anchor chain was moving out of the gypsy. Since tying up the anchor a few days ago there was still some movement in the chain. I can only assume that there is an electrical fault somewhere between the regulator and the windlass. The main fuse has been removed so I think there will be no further 'rogue' noises indicating that the windlass is being operated. At the same time I have switched off the water pump and this also switches itself on, very briefly, every now and again. Late afternoon Wally and I went for a cup of coffee and a slice of cake, and met up with Thomas and crew as we left the cafe. Later that evening it was out again, and back to the 'Wharf' bar and restaurant for a couple of beers before ordering a fish and chip supper. A couple of late night drinks were had before bed.
A few jobs to do on the boat today in preparation for our departure on Monday. First, a walk to the hardware store to see if they sell waterproof electrical connectors. During the storm a few days back the flexi solar panel became damaged and one of the connectors requires changing. They don't have any. Second task, set up a new preventer so that the single line can be operated from both sides of the yacht without the need for going forward. Third job, set up all the sheets and guys to enable us to fly the parasailor sail. The parasailor sail is essentially a down wind sail, so hopefully there will be opportunities to fly it. Next, brunch. A return visit to the 'Seagrass' cafe, where they serve delicious banana cake. Back to the boat and Wally is trying to identify an electrical fault with the newly fitted anchor windlass. Every now and again, with the anchor switched off, it operates briefly, releasing a very short amount of chain. He has re-wired the hand held remote control unit so that this can only function if the anchor is switched on at the control panel. All appeared good....... but during the night the fault occurred again, so maybe the contactor needs replacing. I did get a new one when I bought the windlass the other week. With all hands available, the tender has been swung off the davits to the quay and John is now deflating it to be stored for the next leg. In the afternoon we have a visit from Nicki. When we were in the Seagrass cafe yesterday we asked the patron if she knew of any place that sold long life milk. She suggested we speak to Nicki and Dana, cousins who were also in the cafe. Nicki phoned the supermarket in Hamilton to check for us but knew of a shop en route to Hamilton that did sell the milk. She was going in that direction and would get some for us. Well, she came back with four cartons of long life milk, three packs of Carnation powdered milk and a carton of Marvel milk powder. The cost? She would not take any payment for it and suggested, that if we returned to Bermuda, we would be welcome to stay with her family. All through the Caribbean and now Bermuda, the people have been extremely friendly, and this is just one further example of how lovely the residents are. We did ask if we could buy her a drink this evening. She indicated that she might be in The Wharf but when we went there she wasn't around. However, the six beers purchased came to a staggering $63US. Just as well we didn't eat there as we had planned!
Today our fourth crew member flies in to join us. Matias has already crossed the Pacific Ocean so will be up to speed on sailing long passages. We anticipate leaving on Monday, weather permitting, and stopping off at Flores, the first of the islands of the Azores. The passage is around 1700nm and will take 14 - 17 days. Depending on the route chosen, likely to be the middle route, there may well be days of little or no wind, so weeks 10 and 11 will be coupled together and sent once I have Internet access. Back in a fortnights time.