Thursday 1 December 2016

Passage Log – Pasito Blanco, Gran Canaria to Mindelo, St Vincent, Cape Verde (with Photos)

Passage Log – Pasito Blanco, Gran Canaria to Mindelo, St Vincent, Cape Verde
Sunday 20th November

Our approach to Mindelo on Tuesday 29th November

Said goodbye (again) to Jo and Esther around 0900; they were heading up to Las Palmas to see the Arc fleet depart.

Departed Pontoon for fuel dock around 1000. Took on Fuel and water, stowed anchors, fenders etc. and departed at 1045 under power. Wind was from SE Force 3 but we continued under engine for the next hour or so whilst we got ourselves sorted out. Heading approximately 210. Set sail at 1200on same course. Wind eased and therefore shook the precautionary reef out. 

Wind backed to the NE during course of afternoon and varied in strength from Force 1-3. Steering by auto tiller until after lunch of sandwiches when we then set up Angus. Took about an hour to remember/figure out the correct settings but once done Angus performed fine in the light winds off the quarter. We continued with that setting to make best speed which produced a heading of between 180 and 220. This meant closing with the African coast rather than heading for Cape Verde but the rout planner and grab files indicated we would find better winds further east in any case. No chance of bumping into Africa overnight so we left things like that and continued on our way.
By late afternoon we were being overhauled by the fastest boats in the Arc fleet and we continued to be surrounded by Arc boats throughout the night.

I cooked dinner. During the course of preparing it discovered that some of our vegetables were rotting already. Probably made a mistake by stowing them in the green bags in the hammock rather than in lockers (which is where others are stowed). After dinner Mick took the first Watch until 0200.

Monday 21st November

By 0400 we were at 26 36.29N, 15 49.4 South, a distance of 67 miles from our starting point.
‘Woke’ from dozing sleep only at 0900 so went on watch and Mick went off after 30 mins or so. Very light winds from Northish so decided to set the twin running headsails. This required setting a second headsail hanked on to the emergency forestay and using the main boom to boom it out. Followed the instructions from Street’s guide to the Cape Verde (Jo and Esther know his nephew). It took me until noon to get all the blocks and bits of string in place but it all worked fine and up the sail went.

Mick got up round about then to complain about all the noise I was making on the foredeck. Must have forgotten that his Birthday was over!
The winds stayed very light the whole day and we probably averaged less than two knots. The sky was cloudy too and therefore we were only just charging the batteries and would not make good the AMPs lost during the night before dark. At 1600 we therefore decided to motor south for a couple of hours in search of AMPs and wind. I flushed the bilges out during this period using a few buckets of sea water and very expensive bilge cleaner. An ideal test of the new bilge pump. It sprayed filthy bilge water all over the cabin sole! Clearly Chris and I had not finished tightening the screws up! After I did that all was fine. By 1830 we had topped up the batteries and therefore set sail again. The winds were still almost non-existent. Despite that Angus was able to hold a course with the twin headsails set. Light winds from the stern are the most difficult for wind vanes to deal with so I was pretty pleased about that.
Mick started preparing dinner at about 1930. Around 2000 the AIS (“Automatic Identification System”- all commercial vessels are obliged to have them; I have a class B send/receive unit on AS and am very pleased we have it) we picked up a tanker Southern Star from Hong Kong on a collision course with us some 15 miles out. As a precaution I entered her MMSI (like a telephone number) into the VHF so I could call her up directly if required. By 2015 she was showing no sign of altering course so I called her up on the VHF. She acknowledged our position, asked us to maintain course and speed (difficult when sailing in light airs) and agreed to alter course so that we passed Port to Port (left side to left side). By 2030 dinner was ready but Southern Star was still on a collision course so Mick put the dinner in the oven to keep warm and manned the helm to ensure we maintained as straight a course as possible. Eventually Southern Star did as promised and passed us to port about a third of a mile off. Dinner was excellent. Beef-burgers and steamed vegetables in the pressure cooker (an excellent buy).
After dinner Mick noticed that the web strop holding the sheets on the Genoa had come off so I sorted that out and turned in around 2200.
Tuesday 22nd November
Mick woke me at 0200 (this time I was properly asleep) with the news that we had wind at last but needed a sail change. The wind was now from the NW and so we needed to revert to our normal rig of mainsail and genoa and get on a beam reach. Making the sail changes was slightly challenging in the pitch dark but at least it was still very calm. With the rig changed we are making around 4k towards Cape Verde with our GPS predicting arrival in the early hours of the 29th November.
[The Bluetooth connection between the Yellow Brick tracker and my phone has malfunctioned and I therefore cannot message individuals nor contact Chris. Will need to speak to Customer Support once have access to the internet.]
I got up about 1000 and fixed a muesli breakfast for us both by diluting the overly sweet muesli we bought in Gran Canaria with some basic oats left over from last year and some dried fruit and apple. Shortly after breakfast Mick saw a whale off to port but of course once we had the cameras out it had gone. That was almost the only wild life siting so far except for a solitary bird that Mick also saw earlier. We made much better progress during the day with speeds up around 6k for periods. Late in the afternoon the wind picked up further and veered further north putting us almost on a dead run. After some debate about what rig to set we used the main boom to pole out the genoa and furled the mainsail. In the morning, we’ll set the second headsail too. Shortly afterwards we had a close encounter with an oil platform underway – not what I expected in the Atlantic!

The boat rolls a lot in these conditions and makes lots of horrible creaking noises. I’m off watch at 0100!

Wednesday 23rd November

My turn for the after dinner watch so turned in at 0200. Was bloody tired the time seemed to really drag and could hardly keep my eyes open. The boat makes lots of noise sailing downwind in big swells; lots of creaking and cracking noises but everything seems to be OK, except that once off watch I could not get to sleep! Probably got an hour. UP at 0500 to reduced wind and slow progress so decided to pole out the jib. In the process I dropped the bloody spinnaker pole over the side!!!!! Spent the next few hours trying to jury rig another from two boat hooks. At 0900 when Mick appeared we flew the jib with (after a number of attempts/configurations) the jury pole aft of the mast just to keep the sheet from fouling the rails and shroud.

After Mick spent some time trimming the sails and Angus to run us directly down wind, the sails worked remarkably well. As at 0200 we were running at 6+ knots. We could still do with finding a replacement pole in Mindelo. The chances are though, pretty slim. If necessary we could probably make one out the copper pipe I bought for a lightening conductor and a couple of lengths of stainless steel tube I have on board.

Around 1600 the wind veered and increased (around 20k for a while) and we were as a consequence being pushed west of our desired track . Therefore decided to change the rig back to mainsail and jib and to move to port tack in order to steer around 225. This took ages because of the need to move the reefing pennants that we had moved to reef points two and three back to 1 and 2 and in the process we got into rather a tangle. The job was finally completed around dusk. Then however because we were using the smaller jib rather than the genoa there were new friction points between the sheet and the standing rigging. I eventually protected them with a mixture of an old towel and hosepipe.
Whilst all this was going on we were visited by the first dolphins of the passage. It was fairly dark by then so it was not possible to make out what type they were. There was phoseferesence in the water and they created quite a light show with it, like giant aquatic glow worms dancing about.
Mick cooked a good dinner to finish off the last of our fresh meat (beef burgers). I was dog tired by this time and Mick therefore took the first watch.

Thursday 24th November

I was up at 0200 to find all well and Mick making adjustments to Angus to prevent us steering to far south into the path of a passing ship. At 0330 we had 481 miles to go to our Cape Verde waypoint.
The day was relatively uneventful except for the occasional wave breaking into the cockpit and soaking the unwary occupants. The sunniest day so far; we managed to fully charge the batteries for the first time. Given our generally South West course, the boat is heading directly into the sun during much of the afternoon thereby shading the boat and the solar panels.

The wind got up for a few hours increasing our speed to 6+ knots for a while but it decreased again around dusk after which we were making around 4-5k. The wind also backed more towards the north in the evening pushing us further south than our planned track under the reefed main and jib. Given that darkness was almost upon us (at it is VERY dark until the early hours when the moon rises) we decided to leave the rig as is until the morning and light unless we get pushed East of South. Then we’ll probably need to set the twin headsails which will take a bit of faffing around and run down to Cape Verde (unless the wind changes again). I cooked a Corned Beef Hash for dinner – rather too much but we ate it all.

Prior to Mick commencing his watch at 2000 the wind backed and eased watch so that we headed further south than was ideal and our speed dropped to under 4 knots. We therefore set the genoa (with the jib just sitting inside it). That made a slight difference. The wind strength really called for the reefs to be shaken out of the main but we decided to leave further changes until daylight and the 0800 watch change when we would set the twin headsails for running.

Friday 25th November

My first night watch was from midnight to 0400. I saw an aeroplane for the first time this passage but other than that there was nothing really to note. Continued sailing broadly SW under reefed main and genoa. When I came on watch at 0800 we set the twin headsails for running and fiddled about with Angus. I thought he had stiffened up overnight so we got him out and checked him over. Thankfully I had just failed to take account of the back pressure that the steering blade produces when in the water. Out of the water everything felt normal. We did though have a slight problem with the large vane fouling the Dan-buoy and the NAVTEX antenna. Unfortunately, the smaller vane didn’t produce enough power to sail a steady course. We removed the Dan-buoy and refitted the large vane. It still fouled the NAVTEX antenna now and again but in the relatively light winds it was causing any damage to itself. 

We then had a muesli breakfast and a cup of tea. Despite being up beyond his allotted 4 hours Mick was in no hurry to get more sleep and didn’t head for his bunk until around midday. The skipper very generously started the clock ticking at 1130!

With Mick in his bunk I then tackled more chafe points with the spare hosepipe I had on board. 

The swell became more regular and comfortable with the boat on a good course for Cape Verde at around 5 knots. Almost perfect trade wind sailing (except we’re not really in the Trades).

Today was also the best day for sun so far. By 1400 we had replenished our batteries completely, the first time we have been able to all passage.

At 1340 we had 38 miles to go to the approaches to Mindelo with a predicted arrival there of early in the morning of that date. We would of course have to continue at around 5k for that to be achieved.
New readers may be curious about the living quarters on a luxury super yacht like Arctic Smoke. Well here’s a taste of what it’s like…

Saloon with skipper's berth


Nav station

En-suit Loo

En-suit Bathroom

Forepeak and luxurious Crew's quarters

 By 1500 the wind had died to F2 or less and we’re only making around 3k L.
Mick cooked a pasta and tuna dinner and then it was my turn to take the early watch at 2000. Conditions remained much the same except it was dark. Around 2300 I noticed a light astern on the starboard quarter which turned out to be a large ship, probably a passenger liner that gradually overhauled us to port. She was not transmitting an AIS signal however which was unusual and disturbing. By the time it was Mick’s watch she was abeam of us.
Up again at 0400 to discover we had slowed down even further to 2+k and now had an ETA of December the first L. The wind picked up a little later however and we were back up to the giddy speed of 3+k by 0500. Battery levels low. Left the NAVTEX on all night – perhaps the cause. Mick suggested treating them to a recondition charge with the smart battery charger one in port.
Off watch at 0800. Back on at 1200 to discover the wind had changed again – reduced and veered pushing us too far west. Changed the sails to Main and Genoa and more or less back on course at 225ᵒ. Making approximately 3.5-4k. EAT at this speed = early hours of 29th November. Day overcast with little sun so we may need to run the engine later to re-charge the batteries.
The day continued in much the same vein although we did get some brightness in the afternoon and were able to get some charge in the batteries. Progress if anything was though slower with periods of only registering 2-3k! Got pushed further south during the course of the day. Visited by spotted Dolphins again around 1700. Mick tried getting some video footage – we shall see how successful he was.
Adopted a further variation to the sail plan to get us further west with the wind on the port quarter – sheeted the genoa to the main boom with the mainsail set too. Seemed to work reasonably well. Had a late lunch of tuna mayonnaise sandwiches and two rounds of tea and cake during the afternoon and evening and so did without dinner.

A slight problem with Angus developed in the late afternoon. Mick noticed we weren’t holding a course. The (rudder) blade was permanently out to one side. A visual inspection revealed that the tube connecting the blade to the vane gear had become disconnected at the bottom. Fortunately all that had happened was that a nut had worked lose and fallen off. That was soon rectified with a replacement nut.

My first watch was at midnight. We had been gradually pushed west during the last hour or so and indeed the wind continued to back requiring a beam reach to make our course. Therefore ,set the genoa normally rather than on the main boom. Making reasonable progress at 4.5 – 5.5k. ETA at these speeds, evening of 28/11. Would be good if we could keep it up otherwise may need to stand off for the night so as not to enter in darkness.

Up at 0800 to relieve Mick. We’d crept west again during the night so I adjusted the sails to bring us back on course and continued to adjust them over the next hour whilst the wind backed a veered 20ᵒ every ten minutes and probably ended up where everything was before I started!

The wind continued to vary in strength during the morning giving us speeds between 4 & 5k. Still a chance we may be able to get in before dark tomorrow provided we can continue to average 4.5k.
A beautiful sunny morning. Visited by a single Dolphin around 0830. I got the video camera out but he’d scarpered by the time I got back on deck.

With 167 miles to go …..

 ……we’re getting to that point in the passage when we start thinking seriously about arrival and safe pilotage into a new port.

The Pilot book says it’s a simple approach with only one off-lying rock/islet – Ilheu dos Passaros near the point north of Mindelo.

It does though also warn of the acceleration zone between Sao Vincent (on which Mindelo is situated) and Santo Antao to the north. Heavy seas can build up especially on the flood (hence my request for tidal information via Yellowbrick).

Once safely in, a pictures scene awaits.

The evening was very pretty with a tropical sunset.

Mick cooked dinner of tinned meat and ‘fresh’ vegetables and very nice too and then it was my turn for the early watch. During dinner the collision alarm went off. The AIS showed an as yet unidentified vessel on our starboard quarter heading towards us at around 7k. We soon spotted a red navigation light in the area indicated and shortly after that were hailed on the vhf by SV Magathea, also heading for Mindelo. She reassured us she would pass our astern which she duly did a couple of hours later.

Around the same time the wind veered again requiring a further sail change, back to main and genoa for which I had to get poor Mick out of his bunk (our rule was no one on deck alone at night).

Monday 28th November

I gave Mick an extra half hour for disturbing his sleep which meant I went off watch at 0100 and back on again at 0500. Mick reported the wind had been changing back and forth all watch and so it continued. Eventually it backed so far that the genoa would not draw (no pole remember I dropped the bloody thing over board) and so I furled it. At that point all hope of making Mindelo this evening disappeared as our speed reduced to under 4k. ETA at 0900, was tomorrow around 0200. We’ll have to work out whether to attempt entry in the dark or stand off and if the latter where. The main issue being tackling the acceleration zone between the islands at night. Perhaps we’ll be near enough to judge the likely wind strengths before nightfall.

On the upside it was a beautiful dawn with Dolphins playing around us briefly but they’d gone by the time I got the camera out.

The Atlantic Islands Guide suggest entry in the dark is doable but Street’s guide to the Cape Verde warns strongly against it due to various unmarked wrecks. At around 1000 we therefore reduced sail to less than 1/3rd genoa boomed out on the main boom to slow down for a morning arrival.

This gave us an ETA of tomorrow at 0700 approximately. A little ironic given we had spent 9 days trying to sail as fast as possible!

We consumed the last of our supermarket bread yesterday so this morning I tried my hand at making Flatbread. Unfortunately, the ‘recipe’ I had had no quantities so I had to guess but it turned out pretty good. We breakfasted on generous helpings of flatbread straight out of the pan, boiled eggs and tinned chop pork. 

The big disadvantage of downwind sailing when the swell is not directly behind one or as is often the case is coming from multiple directions, is the rolling. Today going slowly, only made matters worse and cooking breakfast and eating it was a risky business. The boat settles into a reasonably comfortable and predictable rhythm for a few minutes and then a rogue swell comes along and the boat starts bucking all over the place. You get no warning one minute you think you have made all the required adjustments to posture and your plate and cup are balanced just right and the next second everything’s jumping about all over the place. Seconds before the above photo was taken, Mick’s cup of tea had jumped from the table into his lap - twice!

Well it turned out that was nothing compared with a night under a scrap of genoa in light winds and only a moderate swell. The boat was jerking all over the place at some 2.5-3k as the genoa filled and emptied in the swell. It was quite impossible to sleep.

Tuesday 29th November

I therefore went on watch around 0100 after no sleep. We were a little behind our schedule to be off Mindelo at dawn so I unfurled the full genoa. The wind got flukier and after a couple of hours of the genoa flogging more and more and our speed decreasing I decided to furl the genoa and motor the last 10 miles. We had had the islands in sight for some time but this – around 0730 was the earliest I could get a semi decent picture.

The port of Mindelo is to the right of the above photo.

The below is later, on our final approach to Mindelo. We went between the dark rock in the foreground and the island of Sao Vincente on the left.

Once in we kept a look out for Chris on J&B and before long we saw him at anchor and moored alongside.

We of course expected to find Chris but to my astonishment, anchored just a few metres away was Lionel on his Contessa 32. Lionel and his partner Brandy had left Chatham around the same time as Chris and I in March 2015 and had apparently spent a lot of time in Morroco. Chris had already bumped into them once in a’Coruna last year. Apparently by complete coincidence, Lionel had arrived from Tenerife a couple of days after Chris. Brandy is apparently crewing on an ARC boat so Lionel can fulfil his ambition to sail single-handed across to the Caribbean.

The blue boat in the photo below is his Contessa 32. He was just rowing ashore to walk his dog as we arrived!

After mooring alongside J&B Chris kindly cooked our breakfast and made tea.

We’ll go ashore this afternoon with Chris to clear in and have a look around after a rest and hopefully I will be able to post this entry then. First item on our shopping list is a pole to replace the lost spinnaker pole! We’ll also investigate the marina because it would be useful to spend a couple of days in there, in order to get shore power to give our batteries a recondition charge and because at anchor we are obliged to have one person on the boat at night.

The location here in the bay of Mindelo is quite beautiful but my photos cannot do it justice. We are ringed on all sides by the mountains of either Sao Vincent or her neighbour Santa Antao. In the left hand photograph below the harbour is behind to the left of the left hand vessel at anchor.

There are lots of boats here. Most will no doubt be doing what we intend to do and cross to the Caribbean.

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