Another misty morning on the river, the high pressure remaining over Brittany. We motored across the river to a little pontoon adjacent to a little slipway, and waited. Shortly after 10am a tractor came down the single track lane towing an interesting looking railer. For me what was most interesting was the 15Te painted on the main frame, some 4 Te to spare even with our full fuel tanks. We met Alexis and Alexander, an enthusiastic pair who answered Ana's concerns about lifting points with sparkles in their eyes and gallic shrugs. The tractor followed the trailer into the water. When the water was well above it's axles Ithaka was gently pulled into place and within a few seconds was a foot above the water line. A few tweaks of hydraulics and she was on her way up the tree lined hill, the oak leaves gently caressing her shrouds, and bird song all around. We walked behind, hand in hand, trying to work out if this was a suitable passage for our boat and home. 10 minutes later she was receiving her obligatory fresh water bath, HP water, but not for long as she had very little growth, the expensive antifouling apparently having done it's job. Then into her resting space and chocked and supported. We spent the rest of the day washing salt out of everything, putting the 100 metres of chain onto a pallet below the boat, scraping the barnacles which had made their homes in the rudder, and working through the now familiar winter lay-up list. Except it was 30 degrees - not very wintery.
So no more moving from now on. We'll update YIT occasionally to keep in touch. I can't quite bring myself to cut off communication although Ithaka is definitely no longer a Yacht In Transit.
Woke to mist drifting over the Villaine, and the sun, hazy, rising above the summer green wooded hills. The blackbirds singing their good mornings, ou peutetre ici, bonjours.
It is only 6.30 but the cruisers are up and about and diesels are beginning to shatter the peace. We add our decibels and move up to the lock gates just as the red light turns green. It is all very efficient. We chat to the British boat owner next door who is returning to his "home marina" where his boat has lived for the past decade, he, having given up the Solent in despair of the overcrowding, and made the move to France along with many others.
We pick up fuel (some 250 litres), then cruise up the river past green fields, cows grazing in the warming sun, fishermen huddled on the banks. Soon we turn a bend and here is La Roche Bernard, the end of our journey. We tie up on the visitors pontoon and stroll through the narrow street to the Capitainerie. I see several boats that "might be just right for us" but they do not seem to fire any enthusiasm in my companion. Once signed in and paid, we return to Ithaka, clutching wifi and wc codes. Then it's back to preparing the boat for its photo session, tidying, pumping, sweeping, polishing. Jerome appears at 5pm and Ithaka is photographed and videoed, ready for the exposure of her soul and spirit on the world wide net.
It didn't really worry us as we just spent the day removing sails and cleaning the boat, the same as we would have done above the lock. The sky has been clear and blue all day with very little wind and temperatures in the high 20s.
Then things happened quickly as the Breton hospitality kicked in. Doctor "Martin" arrived to take a look at me, we had a fine steak lunch, then into Lorient to immigration. Then me to have blood sampled, and Ana to do some shopping, meeting back at Ithaka late afternoon.
Now Ana is catching up on sleep, and I am catching up on e mails. We shall be here for at least a week, probably nearer two. We will update YIT occasionally and definitely when we move. Thank you for all your correspondence and messages of support. They have been the highlights of many an ocean day.
A quiet 24 hours. No engine! Ithaka has been sailing herself towards Lorient averaging about 4 knots in the light but steady westerly wind. Meanwhile we have been cleaning the boat, and getting her ready for port. I disconnected the drogue which has been sitting in the cockpit since we left the Falklands, ready in case we needed to slow down in big following seas. Thankfully we didn't need it but it was always good to know it was there ready.
This evening, 40 miles from Lorient, we have set our ship's clock to Central European Summer Time, a shift forward of three hours, and the sun has just set at 10PM. We have seen the first gannets, always a sign that we are approaching land, and soon the lights on the rocky Brittany coast will start to illuminate the sky as there beams sweep across our track.
We will enter Lorient at High Water tomorrow, 10am, and our lives will change.
The Bay of Biscay has a fearsome reputation but for us it is being kind, over kind. The wind is behind us but not enough of it. We could progress very slowly under sail but we have the bit between our teeth and want to get there so we are burning diesel instead. We have had dolphins with us a couple of times today, cavorting under the bow or jumping, rolling and tail smacking. Plenty of ships, all on a track between Ushant and Finisterre, so we have been crossing them.
135 miles to go.
Good progress over night in murky rain and a cool wind, initially north and then slowly curling onto the layline for Lorient as the wind freed. We had the spinnaker up for a couple of hours this afternoon but the wind has become fickle and we are now motorsailing.
Had a visit from some like minded migrants yesterday. A swallow swooped over the cockpit, did a couple of turns of the boat and then flew into the saloon where he landed initially on the spice rack. After sitting there for a bit and sizing up the joint he flew forward into the forward cabin before returning to the spice rack. He stayed with us for about 4 hours in all sometimes outside under the spray hood and sometimes in the saloon. After an hour or so he was joined by another and they both sat under the sprayhood sometimes chatting but mostly just resting. Once I awoke from a nap on the saloon seat to find both of them perched on the opposite seat looking at me. What beautiful frail birds they are. Mainly black with a white chest, a reddy brown face and chin and a irridescent blue back. Presumably they are heading north like us. They seemed in good condition and after having a rest they left us and went on their way. Perhaps they will turn up in Scotlnd in a few days.
Ana would disagree with this but I am not usually one to share my health issues with others. However, it has to be said that my guts have been giving problems over the last couple of weeks with quite a lot of, well yes, lets get to the point, farting.
Last night I was on watch at 0230 and decided enough was enough, and plucked the Ship Captain's Medical Guide from the shelf. Well of course, I had none of the symptoms described, so I moved on to other conditions. It provides detailed instruction on many , ranging from athlete's foot to childbirth, to what to do with a dead person. All very interesting. It may have been the heat (I was dressed in full waterproofs) or the gut problem, or the subject matter, perhaps a combination of all three but all of a sudden I became aint and the next thing I knew I was climbing up from the floor. Hmmm. Thought I'd better tell the medic.
Ana, the medic became very attentive, and having checked me over, sent me off to bed, with dire warnings if I were to get up and do anything - apparently complete rest is necessary.
This morning she appeared, without her uniform unfortunately, but with her stethoscope and her aneroid sphygmomanometer (AS), looking very business like. She needed to measure my blood pressure.
Two hours later, we had to accept that we had failed. Of course we read the instructions. "First find a pulse in the elbow of the arm you do not use much". We could feel a pulse just above my right elbow. "Listen to the pulse with the stethoscope". Ana is deaf. The boat is plunging through the waves with pulse-like swooshing noises. We finally identified it above the miriad of other sounds. Then "apply the band around the arm and fix with Velcro". That was an easy bit. "Pump up the AS until the pulse stops and then 30mb more". We pumped, the band constricting my arm, we continued pumping and my arm felt less and less as if it belonged to me. No movement on the dial. How much more pumping can an arm take? The medic noted that the pressure gauge had been in two pieces in its box. In fact she pulled it apart showing me how it had been in the packet! I noted the message in the case warning that once dismantled the gauge would require re-calibrating by a specialist! Hmmm. We looked at each other and just by our expressions, agreed that neither systolic nor diastolic blood pressures were more important than lunch.
Kept sailing towards Lorient, France, until 10am his morning. Since then we have had only 2-3 knots of wind so have been motoring in the same direction. We are in a "high" but definitely not on one! Not much wind for a day or so to come.
We keep ourselves busy doing boat jobs. Meals definitely become the highlight of the day.
Although there is no moon at present we find there is a lot of starlight. Also as we move North the nights are getting shorter so things are not too bad.
*The barometer suddenly dropped 6mb in one hour this afternoon which would indicate a hurricane! Not sure what caused this but I do not think it was a change in pressure.
We continued to keep ahead of the cold front until dawn this morning. Then it arrived with torrential rain and 25 knot winds which lasted 6 hours. However, once we had our act together and a reef in the main, it helped us on our way in grand style. Now the rain clouds have moved further east and some blue sky returned so maybe well get a good sunset. This was the first real downpour we have had since the tropics and it has washed all the Sahara dust out of the ropes and sails and diluted the salt in all the deck fittings.
We did catch the UK shipping forecast last night which followed "sailing by", a very British Institution. The forecast for Fitzroy bore no resemblance to what we experienced but I guess we were right on the edge of the area.
A slow day. The morning went well with the spinnaker flying but the wind went too far forward so down it came. Unfortunately we managed to break the wire bridle on the pole while lowering. Have rigged up a kevlar strop which should do the job. This afternoon we are finally being overtaken by the cold front which has been chasing us from the Azores and which is bringing a uniform grey to sea, sky and boat, matching the grey tinge on the GRIBs indicating rain.
The grey feeling has not been improved by the first BBC News we have had since last year, telling of the suicide terrorist attack in a Manchester arena killing 22, many of them children. What can you say or do? A sad day indeed.
On a brighter note, it is interesting how we note milestones as we cross this featureless ocean. Today we have entered the area covered by the UK Shipping Forecast. We will listen with interest tonight for Trafalgar and Fitzroy.
Perfect conditions for sailing all day - a steady breeze on the beam, and not a cloud in the sky. We can't remember when we last had such conditions! Meanwhile I've been editing our photos of the last 5 years, since Panama. What a job! It's wonderful to go through them. But it's particularly seeing photos of friends we've made along the way that makes me want to weep at the thought we may never see them again.
Finished Solzhenitsyn's The First Circle, based on a Russian prison in 1949. I've begun this book several times in the past and stopped, but really appreciated it this time. I guess I have the time to give it the full attention it deserves. Following on with the Russian theme, now begun Van Der Post's Journey into Russia, based on Russia the 1960s. They are just two books picked up from a marina shelf somewhere.
We flew the spinnaker for most of the day, trying to make the best of the light winds, but have made slow progress. Ah well, shouldn't complain, not a cloud in the sky all day with a very pleasant temperature. Chilly at night, though.
Good smooth progress overnight but frustrating today as the wind did not stay as long as expected, and even went forward of the beam when it saw I had the spinnaker ready to hoist. Oh well, that's sailing. Now motoring further north to find some more wind.
Boats usually have some water in their bilges. Ithaka has always been very good in this respect but recently we have regularly been seeing 3 or 4 litres a week but only while we are underway. I have been searching for the source and today found it. Very elusive. A pinhole leak in a fitting on the HP side of the watermaker. It is only apparent when the unit is pressurized and its route to the bilge not obvious. I will leave fixing it until we arrive just in case I make matters worse.
Fine sunny day. Motoring all morning but very light SW breeze arrived this afternoon and we are goosewinged and running before it . Azores island of Santa Maria is off our port bow, very tempting but we are going to pass it by.
We should have following winds for the next few days at least, for us a very unusual experience. We are not used to this gentle rolling downwind, with an almost effortless 5 knots.
The wind has freed a little and for a while we were close reaching. Then it died and we are motoring. However the sun is out and it's been warm. We have both been cleaning the cockpit. The big news today is that, despite the fact that our course will take us within 50 miles of the Azores, we have decided to continue on towards France. We had been thinking of taking a break for a few days but the weather over the next week is good for going to France so we will use it. You never know when the next good break will come. Luckily Ana has provisioned enough for 3 months and the water maker is working well so, provided we don't need too much diesel, we should be OK.
Still sailing North and nothing much to report. Highlights of the day were 1 yacht which crossed ahead of us, Axia, a 121ft superyacht heading for Gibraltar, and 1 dolphin, an 8ft supermammal which played under the bow effortlessly and then left us in its wake!
The wind returned today, the small ridge we had been motoring in yesterday dissolving into the trade winds which then built up to 25 knots. 2 reefs and only half the yankee and much slamming into waves again. However it is not forecast to last for long and will moderate before morning and also swing east allowing us to bend around to the NNE we hope.
So a quiet day on Ithaka, Ana staring at the ceiling feeling slightly queezy, me in and out of the cockpit trying to get the boat to go to windward through usually, but sometimes over, the waves.
Bruce tells of a westerly wind not too far ahead blowing us the way we want to go. WE'll not think about this yet. It might be wishfull thinking.
We had the engine going all night motoring into a very light headwind but at least going in the right direction. However by this morning we needed a break from the noise and turned it off, returning the boat to peace and tranquility and a heading some 30 degrees to the west of our desired course. The cloud of the last few days has disappeared and we have had warm, but no longer tropical, sunshine all day.
A bird came to visit us, a tern gracefully swooping around the boat. It did a few circuits and headed off we know not where. We saw a couple of birds yesterday too but too far away to identify, so are feeling less alone in the ocean. A ship passed too, away on the horizon. It was heading for Valencia in Spain which make us feel that we are getting closer to Europe.
A quiet night expected tonight and then the trades building again for a few days but shifting more to the East which will allow us to curve up onto our course again.
The wind held until dawn this morning, then headed us and dropped to 6 knots. On came the engine and its been chugging away ever since. Hopefully it will continue tomorrow as the forecast is very light for another 24 hours.
Ana baking cake and bread, and I, trying to write of our experiences.
WOW! Green flash sunset. Only the 2nd time I have seen it and a first for Ana!
Wind continued well through the night but by this afternoon it was dying away. We had a couple of hours of engine and now it has come back very light but just sailable. We are using the windpilot but instead of the vane we are using a small autohelm tiller pilot. In these very light winds the vane does not respond and there is insufficient power to drive the hydrovane. The tiller pilot replaces the vane but still utilises the power derived from the boats passage through the water to steer the boat. That was just a little technical snippet for those interested in such things - not many I suspect! Bruce-the-weather tells us we are moving into a ridge which will cross us over the next 2 days so we can expect little wind and will probably be motoring.
Ana is very pleased that the boat is upright and stable, and she doesn't require three points of contact when moving about the boat and cooking.
Another sunny, trade wind day. Fluffy white cumulus, sparkling sea, Ithaka dancing through the waves with the occasional thump and bang but nothing too bad. We spend our time catching up on sleep, reading, writing and talking.
We left the tropics today, finally saying goodbye to the sun which will reach our present latitude next month and then head south again. Tonight I looked ahead and found that we were pointing at the pole star, and last night the southern cross was only just above the horizon. There is little else to tell of our progress north. We are used to the ocean desert now - no birds, no whales, no dolphins, nothing living sighted since we left Cape Verde. The two flying fish were both dead in the scuppers!
We are settling into the ocean routine again. Watch follows watch. Day follows day. Our activities ordered by the sun and it's passage across our 6 mile circle of ocean. The wind has been steady. True trade winds blowing consistently between 15 and 18 knots and varying but a few degrees as the cumulus clouds pass over us. As ever we are rigged conservatively. It is hard for us to remove the first reef from the main and we vary the headsail area to keep the boat ploughing along, steadily, consistently, between 5 and 6 knots. Every afternoon an hour or so before sunset I take a trip around the deck. It is wet and I need lifeline and waterproofs but I like to take a good look at the rig before the sun goes down. Today I found a loose shackle, the pin half undone. It had been seized with a plastic tie-wrap which had broken. I replaced it with monel seizing wire.
Ana has started reading, a good sign that her early passage sea sickness is finished. She has started The First Circle by Alexander Solzhenitsyn. I finished it last week, some 700 pages describing 3 days in the life of a soviet "special" prison in 1949. This was a prison where well educated and skilled engineers and scientists were incarcerated for 10 or 20 years, while they worked on projects to aid Stalin's communist regime. Some became happy there, it became their life and they realised they were lucky not to be in a siberian labour camp. Happiness is very relative. But what a cruel machine communism was after the war. This was the reason Ana's father fled Slovenia to Australia in 1949, taking with him only a suitcase and a bride, to escape the bullets of President Tito and communist Yugoslavia. We are very lucky to have lived our lives and bring up our children in a stable war-free country.
Meanwhile Ithaka is taking us towards that country, imperceptibly we are crawling across the globe towards the UK.
Light winds last night made for slow progress. We seemed to be glued to the island of Santo Antao. However, with a little help from the volvo we got clear and the wind started to increase. It has been pleasant sailing in a light breeze most of the day but now increasing to 20+ knots and the waves building too. It would appear that this will be the story for a few days so we need to get used to living on a slope with lots of banging and crashing.
We spent nearly a month in the Cape Verdes mainly in Praia and then Mindelo. The highlight was the few days in Santo Antao which we visited by ferry, there being very little shelter for a sailing boat anywhere around the coast. It is very mountainous reaching over 1500m in the centre. Because of this the island does have rain and there are rivers. We walked down one valley all the way from the mountains to the sea. Near the top we found two ladies inspecting their coffee "orchard". At this point there was no obvious water in the river. It just looked dry. However they said the water is flowing underground and the coffee bushes had obviously found it. Further down the river actually came to the surface - just a trickle but enough. The locals cultivate every possible space and there are terraces all the way up the valley. The small amount of water in the river is directed through these in channels and the ever present black alkythene piping, making the whole valley a beautiful fertile area where fruit and vegetables grow in profusion, and birds and animals thrive.
We also spent some time in a fishing village on the north tip of the island where the Atlantic surf crashes is continously. However, there is a short concrete breakwater, which, despite its poor condition, provides an area where the small rowing fishing boats can be landed and pulled up the beach. There are also a few bigger (about 20 ft) motorised fishing boats which are moored outside the surf zone. Not an anchorage I would choose. The whole beach area turns into a fishmarket when the fish is landed, the skippers standing beside the scales as the fish are weighed and bid for. The fish are then cleaned, sharp knives flashing in the bright sun. The offal and scraps go to the dogs who think it is Christmas. Ladies carry large bowls of fish away on their heads. Meanwhile boats are being repaired, with much talking and hammering.
In the evening we dined out. Fish, of course and Vinho Verde, locally made crisp "green" wine which we enjoyed.
We left Mindelo on Sao Vicente mid afternoon and are now hard on the wind and sailing to the North of the lovely island of Santo Antao. We know it is lovely because we went there (by ferry) and had 3 lovely days hiking, swimming and enjoying the lovely villages and people.
We meant to leave yesterday but our pre departure checks revealed a fault in our EPIRB (emergency device which gives our position if we are in trouble). We contacted McMurdo, the manufacturers in UK and were told the model of EPIRB had been subject to a recall since January 2016! Apparently they had sent a letter to our address in the UK but we have not received it. They were quite happy to replace the unit but, of course, there was not one in the Cape Verdes. So we bought a different make and model and they will repay us in due course.
So if anyone has a KANNAD SAFELINK EPIRB they should get in touch with the manufacturer urgently. We enquired about the problem. It is a material issue with the yellow plastic case which can become brittle. Sure enough, we peered inside through the clear plastic top and the plastic boss which retains the single screw holding the two sections together had sheared off and it was only the o-ring seal which was holding the unit together.
So now we are on our way again and looking forward (well not really) to our first night at sea. The weather has settled down to a steady 17 knots and the waves are also settling down to a steady rhythm as we move off the shelf and into deeper water.
Arrived here late afternoon after a pleasant sail, beating of course, from Ilha Sao Nicolau. This is the main harbour for the Cape Verdes and is large and full of marine activity. It is also full of rusting wrecks, some still floating but many lying on their sides in the shallow water.
Our service batteries have done stirling work since 2013 but are now coming to the end of their lives. Yesterday evening I noticed that the volts were very low, about 11.4v, and on investigation found one very hot battery, obviously with an internal short circuit in one cell. I took this battery out of the circuit and now we are managing with two instead of three. However they are all the same age so one or both of the others could go at any time. We will see what can be done about new batteries tomorrow but I am not hopeful that we can get the right ones here.
Otherwise all is well with boat and crew.
Arrived here first thing this morning after a good passage from Praia, the wind behaving itself and shifting more to the east to allow us to make it in one tack. We are anchored off the village, the boat rolling gently in the atlantic swell which makes a continuous roar as it lands on the beach a 100 metres away.
We went ashore and reported to the Marine Police and were charged a few hundred escudos for our visit. Then relaxed for a while in a little cafe overlooking the town centre watching the people coming and going. Back on the boat we attacked the little ecosystem that has set itself up on the hull. Most of it comes off with a wipe from a scourer but the goose barnacles are a little stronger. The water is surprisingly cool considering we are only 16 degrees north, and we are dressed in full wetsuits for this battle. We may have to have a second go tomorrow. Ana is still doing battle but I have retired with cold and cramp, to the warmth of the setting sun.
We left Port Praia this morning at 0700. There was little wind up the west coast of Ilha de Santiago so we motored or motor sailed until we arrived at the northern point. The island is mountainous, very rugged and very dry. The only signs of vegetation were close to the coast where, not surprisingly, there were little villages. We had decided not to stop at these as we are keen to make the northing to the northern islands and we have a couple of days of lighter winds to do this, before the trades get up to their normal strength again.
As we left Ihla Santiago the trade winds came in fairly strong but it was just an area of acceleration close to the coast and they soon moderated to a pleasant 12 -15 knots. Unfortunately the angle is still challenging and we will be tacking later on to make the island of Sao Nicolau where we are thinking of taking a break. But that's all tomorrow and anything can happen.
We spent a good two hours while we were motoring washing the sahara sand of the boat. This reddish dust has accumulated over the last week and has got into everything. It is very fine but, I suspect, fairly abrasive. We also made water, something we have been putting off until we escaped from the murky waters of Porto Praia.
Still her in Porto Praia. Still enjoying the hustle and bustle of the city. Kriol Jazz Festival, Easter Mass, markets overflowing with fantastic vegetables and fruit. Women, tall, slender, perfectly upright, impossibly large loads on their heads. Smiles, dust, colour, love.
Still working on the boat, repairing, maintaining, improving, catching up on the mail and what's going on with family and friends.
Exercising again. 0600 - first light. Cup-of-tea. While the kettle's boiling I launch the dinghy. 30 minutes later we are rowing into the beach, teashirts, shorts, no shoes. We ride the swell into the beach, getting better at avoiding a dousing, pull the dinghy up. 20 minutes running between sand and surf - we are chariots of fire! Another 20 extending and flexing, all those parts that have not seen much motion in the ocean.
Now it's 8 PM. The tropical sun has long left us for the Pacific. We have returned the boat to order after the jobs of the day. I am sitting on the port side of the saloon, feet up on the settee, Chris Rea rocking away in the background. Two candles illuminate our home, their fire guttering in the flurries of the NE trades which penetrate the saloon.
In the galley some 6 feet away on the other side of the boat Ana, dressed in blue sarong, is cooking supper. The candlelight highlights her tanned shoulders and back. To her left a cork pinboard is home to the photos of kids, parents, grandkids, reminders of times past and future hopes.
Further left, on my side of the saloon, a blow-up globe swings gently in time with the perpetual swell, a poor representation of this beautiful planet, but still a reminder of places and people.
A tiki stands on the shelf, sentinel to Vanuatu and bringing memories of Tom and Kim from Canada in "Exit Strategy". A miniature bronze kiwi guarding its single egg sits close by, crafted and given to us by Doug, who with Nikki live on their 1950s New Zealand ketch, Karie-L. A small olivewood box sits next to them, a Christmas gift from Aleko of Beduin, to Ana. Further left a pennant hangs from the vegetable nets; "Club Escuela Deportes Nauticos, Puerto Williams" the most southern kids sailing school in the world. There is rafia fan woven by Sarah, the nurse of Falanga, Fiji, arguably the most beautiful lagoon in the world. As my gaze scans our miniature home the memories of the last 4 years and the people, always the people, all those hundreds, maybe thousands of people, return, and return, and return.
I am steeling myself for the return to Europe and our move from this home to the next....but luckily, memories and friendships are such, that they will move with me.
Listening to Louis Armstrong singing "Let's fall in love" after horizontal dinner, the first in 27 days.
All well. Not rushing anywhere for a while. Will clear in to Cape Verdes tomorrow, perhaps get a beer under a tree.
Thanks for all your YIT comments, e mails and support on what has been quite a hard passage. We will not update every day while we are in the islands but will do so when we move location. Ana says it was 3500 nautical miles from Brazil the way we came and it took 27 days. I found her with the calculator trying to work out the average miles per day but the G and T and the sunset became more important.
I managed to save a flying fish which had found its way onto our deck. Usually I find them dead but I heard this one land and managed to get him back to the sea. They are an interesting study in evolution. The lower part of the tail fin is elongated so that they can keep the tip of it in the water while they fly, presumably to provide propulsion and/or to steer. They seem to do this initially and then glide higher above the waves, perhaps using the uplift. Ana thinks they flap their elongated pectoral fins but I think they may just glide. Anyway the ability to leap out of the water and fly a few hundred metres is a good defence mechanism against marauding predators. Their sense of direction and landing technique still need a bit more honing, perhaps a few more 1000s of years evolution will fix it.
According to the forecast we are due one more punch tomorrow but hopefully, not for too long.
Ana saw a turtle today, no identification of type, just big. Other than the flying fish that's about the only signs of life we have seen.
It is a beautiful clear evening here, the temperature very pleasant, just cool enough to wear a fleece. THere are no ships to be seen although when we look at the AIS information on the chart there are many not too far away. A very busy corner in the Ocean.
We're in company, with the AIS telling us there are 51 vessels in the vicinity, two of which are Canadian War ships. We're sort of hoping there isn't something going on here that we don't know about. Could well be, for, apart from snippets from friends warning us we probably won't want to return back to the western world, we've had no international news since we left the Falklands on 24 February! Meanwhile on Ithaka we have taken the opportunity of all the electrical power to make water, top up batteries and charge everything. We have poured 80 litres of reserve fuel into the fuel tanks, and washed and dried the laundry. Oh what domestic bliss!
But that's why we are here. Because we like sailing and an essential part of this pastime is that you have to zig-zag to go towards the wind.
Having reminded ourselves of the above we had a glass of chilled red wine and some brazil nuts while having a grandstand view of another electrical storm occurring about 3 miles astern.
Incidentally, we noted that we often didn't hear any thunder with the very dramatic lightning. We asked Bruce-the-weather and this is the reason: In answer to your question concerning the lack of thunder, you are in the equatorial region where the freezing level within the clouds is at the highest point anywhere in the world. Typically 5-6km up inside the thunderstorms. It is the hail within the thunderstorms that generates the charge separation that then produces the lightning. Much of this activity is occurring quite high in the clouds - 8-10km up, compared to 1-2km in the mid-latitudes (30-40 degrees North and South). So the sound has further to travel for you to hear it while the lightning is readily seen at the extra distance.
We've been motor sailing all day in very light winds, trying to go north as quickly as possible. We know we will have head winds soon, and the rodeo will start again.
We are now heading NNE, the thunder storms we have come through are behind us and to our west. There is opportunity for more but for now the forecast looks good to the equator some 130 miles to the North.
Great excitement. We had a visitor overnight, a Lesser Black-Backed Gull. He/she found a niche on the outer deck among the ropes, making it very awkward for us when trying to reef down in a hurry in the dark. Gone by early morning, hopefully Jonathan/Joan will make it back to land, somewhere.
We are not fishing at present, as we still have lots of vacuum packed meat and fish to wade through. Yesterday we sat down to enjoy, what we thought were, Brazilian beef steaks, only to spit the first mouthfuls out due to the heavy concentration of salt. After soaking for 24 hours, rinsing 3 times, and then dicing the meat into tiny pieces, it was edible. Unfortunately we have 3 more of these salted packages. We ask ourselves, who buys this stuff, apart from mugs like us?!
Colin and Ana, En route to Brittania, Contemplative their manner, What will they do? Adventures there'll be, By land p'haps, less sea, And maybe a tree, And a sculpture, or two.
When Ithaka's sold, A new life will unfold, Before grandchildren grow old, That's what they'll do.
Ithaka behaving very well. The only problem is the HF Radio reception which is poor during the day at the moment so we must wait for nightfall before logging on and downloading e mails. We seem to be about equidistant from 3 sailmail stations, Chile, Trinidad and Africa but all are 3000miles away.
Ithaka continues to plough on largely unattended allowing us to read and plan the next phase of our lives. The windpilot does a great job provided the wind is above 14 knots. Less than this, Ithaka develops lee helm (tends to bare away from the wind) and the windpilot struggles to push her back into the wind. Then Ana finds herself steering and, if it is my watch, I go into a frenzy of adjusting sails and ropes to try to get the boat balanced again. Usually the wind comes back again and all is well.
We are making fairly slow progress because we are hard on the wind. If we could free the sheets and sail 10 degrees lower we would probably do 20 more miles per day. However, the key to getting to the Cape Verdes is easting so we must keep plodding along for now. We are heading for a waypoint on the equator at 22degrees west. Today we hear news from Bruce-the-weather, that there will be a trade wind surge which will allow us to carry the trade winds north of the equator and give us longer to attain our easting before we hit the doldrums. We like his optimism but are reserving our judgement on the matter. We have been disappointed before! We continue to eat things "just in time", sometimes "just too late"! Today we had oranges and grapes which had seen better days. However, on the whole we eat very well and do not want for anything yet. The power generating systems are doing very well, solar and wind keeping the fridge cool enough to make ice for drinks.
Wind E 11kts. 0.5m waves. Sky 15% cloud. Baro 1005
It's Mother's Day back in the UK, so I thought I would indulge myself in quoting the following: "The earth is not inherited from the fathers (or mothers, in my case!) but borrowed from the children." Wind NE 16kts. 1.0m waves. Sky 100% cloud. Baro 1007
While off watch I've just finished reading "At Hawthorn Time" by Melissa Harrison. A beautifully skilled piece of writing. Now onto "The Kindness of Enemies" by Leila Aboulela. One thing this long distance sailing lark does is allow you to indulge in the pleasure of reading a book in just a few days, instead of over months, when knackered at the end of a day.
Wind NE 12kts. 0.5m waves. Sky 10% cloud. Baro 1007
I open the cabin door to find Ana, lifejacket over tee shirt and knickers, completing the log. A brief word, a brush of lips, and she is gone, to her land of dreams.
I pull on shorts and tee shirt, briefly check Ithaka's vital signs, AmpHours, Volts, Latitude, Longitude, then up the steps into the cockpit.
We are close hauled on starboard tack, as we have been for the last three days. Full yankee set with-in 50mm of the port spreader, full staysail and full mainsail, as much power as we can muster. I note the wind indicator at the masthead, the leech tension, the flowing tell-tales, all now increasingly visible. The wind is light, just enough to coax the wind generator into motion, but insufficient to raise any useful volts.
I move aft behind the binnacle. The instruments glow with pleasant familiarity. On the left, magnetic heading, ridiculously optimistic owing to the large magnetic variation in this part of the world. In the centre, depth, speed and distance, the former flashing zero, not because we are aground, but because the sonar pulse is too weak to make the return trip to the seabed, 3km below us, and back again. On the right wind speed and direction, 10 knots and 45 degrees apparent. "Apparent" is what the boat feels - the true wind modified by the passage of the boat through the air. Below these three, the compass, glowing red inside it's hemispherical dome, dancing in time with Ithaka's motion.
The distant line of the horizon still hides the ascendant sun, but already it is illuminating, bringing colour and definition to the grey. Small cumulous clouds are ranked across the eastern sky, their flat bases resting on some invisible celestial rule. Nearer, their larger, darker brother, blossoms high and black, angled lines of rain linking it to the sea below. I note its position and likely track. It should pass ahead of us but, apart from a soaking, may also bring increased wind. Should I reef in anticipation? No, not this time. It's not that big or ugly.
The wavelet ruckled sea is taking on form and definition as the sun rises, the underlying ocean swells marching past, an unending progression driven by some distant storm. Ithaka rises and falls in time, submissive, a bobbing cork, her horizon stretching and receding involuntarily.
All is well in our ocean world. I go inside and put the kettle on.
Wind NE 15kts. 0.5mwaves. Sky 10% cloud. Baro 1006
Last night I looked to the North and say a familiar shape, albeit upside down. The Plough is back with us again, the Pole Star, for which it is the pointer, still way over the horizon, but positive proof that we are moving North in what is a watery desert. We see no birds, no whales or dolphins, no life of any kind. However, there was some death on the deck this morning in the form of a small flying fish. We have also noted that the sun is moving forward setting and rising earlier each day. We will put the ships clock forward soon, and be an hour closer to UTC.
Since I can't think of a poem I thought you might like this one sent to us by Jo, Ithaka cat sitter and supporters club, Edinburgh. It sums up the last 24 hours quite nicely! It rained and rained and rained and rained, The average it was well maintained, And when our fields were simply bogs, It started raining cats and dogs, After a drought of half an hour, There came a most refreshing shower, And then the queerest thing of all, A gentle rain began to fall.
We have been offline for a few days so some catching up required. Remember we decided to go to Brazil. We arrived last Sunday and spent a delightful afternoon and night at anchor, savouring the new country. Early on Monday we moved toward the town of Angra dos Reis. After trying to wake up anyone in the yacht club we motored on and signed up for one night at, what I think is, the most expensive marina in the world, certainly in our experience of the world. From here we walked the 3km into town to visit the various offices to "clear in" to Brazil.
First Immigration, the Federal Police, 1100 hrs - closed for 2 1/2 hour lunch. We took the opportunity to buy a coffee and I had a haircut. Back at 1400, gate locked. Now 36degrees and gate in open sun. Ana took to rattling the gate and shouting in true ozzie style to gain attention. Successful but no police friends made. Actually the "police" turn out to be all women, no uniforms, in fact not very police-like at all but very officious. I am awarded 30 days in Brazil and passport stamped. Now Ana's turn.
Police lady to Ana "Where is your visa?" Ana. "I don't have one because we were not originally coming to Brazil".
Police lady. " No visa, no entry".
Some explanatory information here. This is an example of the so called "reciprocity agreement" between some south American countries and Australia. It is actually a statement of disagreement. Because Australia require any visitor to have a visa prior to entering Australia, some countries, notably Argentina and Brazil, reciprocate by imposing the same restrictions on Australian visitors. So thanks to Australian and Brazilian tit-for-tat politics Ana cannot enter the country. We pointed out that we were already here and not really ready to head back out into the ocean. She could fly to Australia and get a visa. We checked the Brazilian Embassy in Canberra - 21 days minimum to get a visa after they have received the passport and completed forms - no fast tracking whatever the reason. Not much good to Ana then. After some phone calls to superiors by police ladies, Ana was awarded 7 days max in Brazil, BUT confined to the boat! So that was Monday over. Only the first office visited all others now closed.
Tuesday. Now me alone, as Ana confined to the boat. Visited customs. Much form filling but generally nice people. While there met 2 man crew of a french boat who were checking out of Brazil. They had tried, but found it impossible, to do this in Rio de Janeiro (a main clearance port in Brazil) so had given up and sailed to Angra dos Reis to try their luck there. 2 offices completed, 1 to go.
Visited Port Captain, well actually his offices. Met by a team of naval personnel, some in uniform with guns, others in shorts and flipflops. The French crew arrived too, hopeful that they could sail for Buenos Aires that afternoon. No way. The Naval chaps wanted our licences to drive a power boat. We pointed out that our boats are yachts, not power boats. The Navy said that because they have an engine they are powerboats. We say that in Europe we do not need to have a licence to drive powerboats. Hmm what to do now. French crew have been in Brazil for 2 months driving their yacht/powerboat and all they want to do is leave. The naval chaps suggest we go and have lunch and come back later. Lunched and coffied we return two hours later. Sense has prevailed. They have found a clause in the rule book which allows foreign yachts 6 months in Brazil before skippers must obtain their powerboat licence. Note. If Yacht did not have engine then no licence required despite the fact that the level of skill required to sail without engine back up is many times greater.
We have our documents photocopied for the 2nd time and are presented with a stamped and signed paper saying we can stay in Brazil, well Ithaka and I can, but not Ana. The French get a signed paper saying they can leave, and do so, tout de suite.
End of day 2 - We have cleared in to Brazil.
Celebrate in restaurant close to boat, Ana illicity. Drink Caiparinhias and much cold beer. Very good! Wednesday. Provision the boat with non perishables. Ana makes illicit trips to the laundry and supermarket. We are still in the expensive marina - 2 nights now. Get propane refilled. Then depart marina and anchor in noisy, smelly bay closer to town.
Thursday. I go ashore, Ana drops me off on the beach as not good to leave dinghy on beach unattended and available for theft. I go to 3 offices to clear out of Brazil. The same 3 offices. Police lady very nice and efficient. . Customs lady very nice and very slow. Port Captain's team now consists of one fairly large chap in uniform who is obviously very tired and bored. His head is so heavy that he must prop it up with his right hand, his elbow firmly planted on the desk. One finger of the other hand is used to type and occasionally to press "copy" on the photocopier. However, within one hour I have a paper saying I can leave Brazil. I walk out into the fresh 36 degrees and dance down the street. Back on Ithaka I deflate the dinghy in preparation for departure. A yacht comes by and the skipper shouts out that I have left important papers in the Port Captain's office. Inflate dinghy, Ana rows me ashore, walk with grim determination to Port Captain's office. Inside I find large Naval Chap smiling at me - he hands me Ithaka's registration document which I, no actually he, had left in the photocopier. I go outside, now 38 degrees. Still dancing down the street.
And so we left Angra dos Reis, and Brazil on Thursday early evening. We spent an illicit night in a lovely bay and set sail this morning at 0600. Very slowly as little wind but we are heading East, Brazil fading in the evening haze, and in our memories. The Caiparinhias were very good. We have 2 bottles of Cusaca and 50 limes with which to toast Brazil.
Sunday morning before dawn. First we smell Mother Earth, Pachumama. She assaults our sterile senses. Hints of fern, palm, cedar, soft moist fertile loam. Then sounds, of machinery, waves lapping on the beach, people, music, cars. The dawn comes and with it the shape of the bay, the islands. The colours move from monochrome to full colour as the sun climbs. Lush green bush covers the islands, palm trees spiking into sky, the greens flowing down the hills to the calm blue. Blue and yellow boats, white sails, dark frigate birds against the sky.
We motored into the bay at first light. Bay is a misnomer. Ilha Grande is like the Isle of White and Baia de Ilha Grande, the Solent. There was no wind or swell. We drifted while we carefully lifted the anchor from its ocean storage deep in the anchor locker, onto the deck, using the spinnaker halyard. Then re-connected it with its chain, finally lowering both over the side into the water and recovering the anchor onto the bow roller with the windlass. Now able to anchor, we continued our progression through the bay arriving at the main town of Angra dos Reis by lunchtime. Loads of yachts here, mainly on moorings or in the 3 marinas. We established that, as it is Sunday, customs and immigration are closed, so moved on down the coast to this spot where we anchored.
Within 5 minutes I was in the water, warm, but delightfully cool compared with the air. With mask and snorkel I inspected Ithaka's bottom, the first time since we put her in the water in Puerto Montt some 4000 miles ago. Some ice damage to the antifouling paint, not much paint on the bottoms of rudder and keel, both having hit mud and worse on the odd occasion, all three blades of the propeller in place, rudder and keel looking good, anodes well used, obviously working, but life in them still. Fantastic result, testament to the last great antifouling campaign by Ana and Lucas in New Zealand 15 months ago.
Back on deck we lunched in royal fashion with plenty of beer. Then slept, and slept, and slept.
I go below, put on the kettle, have a nice cup of tea, Yorkshire Tea, good and strong. Life is good again!
We are just passing a massive oil field development. The pipelay barge Solitaire is here together with an armada of support vessels. We can sea the rig about 5 miles away. 29 AIS targets in total. No details of this on the Navionics chart but not really surprised.
Steak for dinner and bread baking in the oven. All well.
We seem to be in a bit of black hole as far as comms. is concerned, and are having trouble sending/receiving sailmail. So please don't worry if you don't hear from us over the next few days. Also please keep any messages brief, and we will do the same.
Well today we trod a little heavily and the monster roared.
It was a beautiful blue sea blue sky morning. With 15knots of wind on the port quarter, Ithaka was in her element, the windpilot steering straight and true, the flying fish skittering across the wavelets. We were dressed in shorts, down below working our way through the daily chores. I went to tip the dustpan over the side and looking to windward, noticed a very black cloud. I looked again and it was bigger. It was growing upwards before my eyes like a nuclear explosion With both of us now on deck, we put the 2nd reef in the main, following the now familiar procedure. It came in a treat, no tangles, no sailcloth jamming the cringles, all done in a couple of minutes. I shouted to Ana, now on the wheel, that I would put the preventer on, a rope from the boom end to a strong padeye on the foredeck which prevents the boom swinging across the boat uncontrollably, should we accidentally gybe. I got as far as the shrouds when we were hit by an enormous blast. Ithaka took off like a scalded cat, spray flying out to either side as she planed like a dinghy dead downwind. No time for the preventer, back to the cockpit and winding madly on the yankee furler as Ana paid out the sheet. Amazingly it came in smoothly, and now it was just the double reefed main blasting us forward, Ana locked on the wheel, rain cascading down her hair and face.
10 minutes later all was quiet, the monster asleep again.
We tidied up the cockpit, mopped up the saloon floor and had a cup of tea before resetting the sails, relieved that the monster's roar had only cost us wet clothes.
While off watch, we've been able to relax a little, and been reading about the Falkland conflict. We purchased 4 books while there. This is highly unusual for us, reluctant to burden the boat with non-essentials.
The first book, "Argentine Fight for the Falklands" by Middlebrook, avoids the sovereignty issue, and is from the Argentine military perspective. It's amazing to learn the Argentines thought Britain would not put up a fight, and only manned for the taking and administration of the islands. It would have been a much more bloody war, and perhaps a very different outcome, had the Argentines also planned for defence.
The second book "Doctor for Friend and Foe" is written by Jolly, who was a British medic in charge of the makeshift hospital at Ajax Bay. As the site was also used as a supply base, according to the Geneva convention, the hospital was unable to have a red cross status to protect it from attack. Consequently the building housed 2 unexploded bombs! During air raids, with immense professionalism (and courage), surgery continued on both the British and Argentine wounded.
"Fortress Falklands" by Bound, an islander, describes how these islands are still a highly manned garrison. The conflict,35 years on, is still very fresh in the minds of the locals, which is also what we found.
Happily, oblivious to all this madness, the penguins, seals, dolphins and albatrosses continue to live in these islands, their islands. The fourth book, "Furious Fifties" by Leroux, contains stunning wildlife photography, and is an absolute joy to browse through. It does and will remind us of the beauty of the islands we've left behind.
We should be there within a week. It is a long time since I sailed into Rio in the 70s. It was the most exciting city I had ever been in, so it will be interesting to see how it is now.
Meanwhile here we are in second heaven! Blue sea, Blue Sky, 15 knots of wind. Tea shirt and shorts (to protect from the sun!)
A yacht charter skipper we met in Ushuaia, who runs charters in the summers in both Alaska and Antarctica, described moving from the 40s into the 30s latitudes as going from one room to another, shutting the door behind you. Well, it wasn't quite like that for us yesterday, with 30 knots and 4 meter swell up our arse, but today dawn broke with a mild, warm wind and a calm sea. The first thing we noticed was that most of the birds that accompanied us from the south have suddenly disappeared. They revelled in the strong winds yesterday, superbly hugging the waves, turning sharply on one wing and rising for an overview. Perhaps they don't fancy this warmer, sedate room.
There's no desire for steaming hot porridge for breakfast. The many layers of clothing worn during the past 5 months have been stripped off. Joy of joys - no dripping condensation, and no unpleasant, very cold sensation when sitting on the heads (loo!).
We roared out of the Forties. There was more roaring than we would have liked as the wind was high 20s gusting 30s. Initially we rather enjoyed surfing on the waves at 9-10 knots but then we realised that we did not trust either the autopilot or the windpilot to do the job and therefore one of us would be glued to the wheel until the wind abated. So we reduced sail to 2 pocket handkerchiefs and bowled along at 6-7 knots instead enjoying tea and cake in the warm sunshine while the windpilot looked after the steering.
Tomorrow I am going to dig deep in the cupboard to find my shorts, not seen since New Zealand, and perhaps the floppy sunhat.
The moon is new but moving from teen, to middle age. We had her hanging in the western sky for a couple of hours this evening before she was cocooned in billows of grey cloud. It's good to have a moon and really good when she is getting bigger as at present. She takes away the unknown, lightens the darkness, and broadens the horizon. Hopefully we will make St Helena before she becomes old and shriveled.
Meanwhile we await another front tonight but I am hopeful, with our good speed north today, that there will not be too much punch.
Our friends Marc and Catharine on their OVNI 43 (very like Ithaka) have just arrived in Montevideo after sailing from the Falklands a day or so before us. Their comment, "at 8PM it was 32degrees in the boat and there were people all over the beach - Nightmare". They have been in the south for 3 years - you get used to cold an penguins.
A front passed through today bringing wet rainy weather all morning, followed by post frontal showery windy weather this afternoon. However, wet and windy as it was, it has blown us in the right direction, well actually the right direction to allow us to dodge the wet windy weather which the next front is bringing on Friday. I sometimes wonder if we lose the goal of the passage, ie. St Helena, as we duck and dive around the weather systems, but then I look at the Gribs and notice all the purple 4 feather arrows and think it's actually quite good to be dodging them.
The birds are changing. Not many albatrosses now, I saw only 1 black browed soaring the wave lift today. We now have a new kind of Petrel, big and black but with white markings around the face, currently unidentified but we are working on it.
It's also getting warmer. Only 1 pair of socks and no fleece under the wet waterproofs. And the power useage is creeping up indicating the fridge is working longer hours. All of which is good as we are ready for some sun.
"Good Night", "Good Night" I replied to the now closed cabin door. Ana has gone off watch and by now will be horizontal, likely already asleep.
I am dressed in Musto, once bright red, ocean waterproofs, topped off with red Hutchwilco lifejacket, and headtorch. A sort of marine Santa Claus. I reach out through the companion way and feel the fabric jackstay which runs the length of the cockpit. To this I attach the carabina of my lifeline which now links me securely to the boat. I climb the steps, angled at 30 degrees because we are going upwind on port tack. I sit at the forward end of the port cockpit seat, looking aft, in the shelter of the cockit sprayhood, taking stock of the night.
My night world does not stretch far, about 2 metres. My eyes are drawn to the light, reflected light from the cockpit instruments which are on the aft side of the binnacle, standing tall and black in the centre of the cockpit. The light illuminates the upper three stainless spokes of the wheel, rotating back and forth, and behind, the white self steering windvane, moving from side to side. All is as it should be, the mechanisms of vane and steering keeping us 45 degrees off the wind.
I hear the regular swoosh of waves hitting hull, telling me that all is well, our speed is good, we are neither over or under canvassed.
I feel the regular undulation of the boat as she shoulders aside the waves, the regular rhythm, monotonous, continuous, the heartbeat. All is well.
Looking deeper into the night to starboard I now discern 2 shades of grey, almost the same but not quite. Sky above, and sea below, a hazy line separating the two. There is a world beyond the cockpit.
Misty, wet, soft, Atlantic, ocean.
Sailed NNW all day in very light winds until late afternoon when the wind died completely. We started the engine again but have turned it off to get some peace while we have dinner. The bird life has diminished since leaving the Falklands, just the odd storm petrel and Giant Petrels sitting on the water, also waiting for the wind. The highlight of the day was a pod of some 20 whales which appeared astern and tracked us for a few minutes before heading off to the south. They were not big whales, perhaps pilot whales but we did not get a close enough view to be sure. We are expecting the wind to come tomorrow as a big low pressure system tracks east, to the south of us.
A ridge of high pressure today brought us very light winds and blue skies. We took the opportunity to catch up on sleep and I even read a book for a while. The downside was the noise of the engine which we used for much of the day to keep us moving North away from the next big depression which will roar through to our south in a day or so. The wind has now filled in from the North and we are heading east for a while. The humidity is incredibly high here. Even today with the sun out, the boat is damp, inside as well as on deck, and when you get to bed it takes a while for your body heat to warm up the cold damp bed linen. Roll-on, the tropics.
We've been plodding into a 25 - 30 knot Northerly all day, close hauled on port tack. Seas not too bad, about 2metres, but the occasional goffer still bursts on the windward bow and sends a deluge 40feet aft into the cockpit, often, just as I am emerging to take a breath of sea air. The front is supposed to be passing about now and here are hopeful signs, the wind backing slightly and the barometer's fall slowing down. Ana has been surprisingly upright and eating, this very good for me as I had some opportunity to be horizontal.
We've emerged from the furious fifties and are now in the roaring forties, so far they have been cold, damp and not very inspirational! But overall all is well and we are heading north, slightly faster than a snail.
Departed Port Stanley at 1500 this afternoon in SW 30 knots coming from Antarctica. The wind has moderated now and we are running due North under full Yankee and double reefed main, the latter because we are wary about big squalls coming through overnight. Morrocan lamb for dinner. I am taking the first watch while Ana gets some sleep, thankfully the downwind start has not brought on the sea sickness. Unfortunately tomorrow we are expecting a frontal trough which will bring some strong northerlies for a time and then she may not be so bright. Anyway, good so far.
Well, we left at 0800 having said all our goodbyes and distributed our loose change and wifi cards amongst the needy. We left the harbour, said our goodbyes to Port Control and set a course for St. Helena. Ana went to bed as usual at this stage in a passage and I busied myself setting up the windpilot and fixing down the floors and all the other things we do at the start of a long passage. And then I thought I'd better download any e mails that might be waiting. Stupidly I had not done this before we left.
4 e mails the last one from Bruce the Weather entitled NO-GO RECOMMENDATION FROM STANLEY, sent a few hours before we left. He has identified a nasty new low which will be right on our track and unavoidable and which will give us 50 knot winds on Friday.
We could have just carried on a chanced it but why have a weather advisor if you don't take his advice. So "ready about" it was and now hoping to get a good sleep tonight in Port Stanley.
I just came across our departure check-list which lives in the front of our logbook. The last item on the list reads - Final weather forecast check!!!!!!
The wind died to nothing so we decided to stop off in a small bay on the North Coast of East Falkland as there was a forecast for more wind today. We crept into Seal Cove at 0100. Thankfully we had a full moon and a GPS track from another yacht which had been in there last year. There are no navigation aids except the kelp covering the rocks. We woke in daylight to find we had picked a good place.
We left again at 0830 and quickly picked up the forecast South Westerly. Last night's mist and cloud cleared and we had a wonderful fast sail to Stanley stopping only to watch a pair of very large whales, Sei whales we think.
We are now moored up at a pontoon in the centre of town. Beduin is just behind us. Unfortunately we have to vacate the berth when a cruise ship is in so for those periods we will be on anchor. Also expecting a Northerly gale tomorrow so we will be better on anchor for that anyway.
We will start preparing for the next big passage tomorrow but expect to be here at least a week
We decided to do an overnight back to Port Stanley. Today we had amazing weather, well so did most of the Falklands. THe temperature was 22 deg when we left San Carlos and we tacked NW into 20 knots of warm breeze. Unfortunately the wind then died down and an hour ago we started the engine rather than slop about in the large swell which remains from yesterday's little blow. Hope to get in to Stanley tomorrow morning. The the holiday will be over and we will start working on the boat preparing her for the ocean passage.
We rowed ashore and visited the British Cemetery. Here are 15 graves laid out neatly, surrounded by flowers. The cemetery is surrounded by a circular stone wall about 1.5 metres high, the same as corrals used for livestock, throughout the Falklands. A Union Jack flies above the corral. On the back wall are plaques listing those other men whose lives were lost in the campaign but whose graves remain the waters next to this place. Some 220 are listed.
Back in the centre of the settlement a "Museum" sign hung on a simple steel portacabin. Half of it was dedicated to the wildlife and the farming life of the settlement and half to the conflict. We spent an hour browsing through the exhibits. A rapier sea to air missile. A cluster bomb, guns, rations, a tin hat, photographs. Ana pointed out a photo of Corporal Lawrence Watts, 42 Commando, Royal Marines, beside his foxhole at Port San Carlos shortly after the landings. It was sent to the museum by his wife and widow, Susan, and daughter, Laura.
His face smiled out at me stirring distant memory. We were Sea Scouts together in middle class Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire. He was in my sister's class at school. We shared the same cosy home-county expectations of steady employment and comfortable life. He looked the same, just a little older, moustached and the Sea Scout sailors cap had been replaced by a green beanie. He was killed 3 weeks later in the assault on the Argentine held position on Mount Harriet, a few days before the end of the conflict.
We met John and Sharon, in their smart green wooden house overlooking the bay. We accepted their offer of tea and stayed another two hours learning about their life in this remote settlement. As with all the islanders we have met, they are self sufficient, self motivated and enjoy their isolation. They are eternally grateful to Britain for it's retaliation following the Argentine invasion, which has allowed them to retain their country, their culture and their way of life.
The day started at 6am in drizzle and fog, but soon cleared to be a fine sunny, summer(!!!) day. Temperature in the saloon reached 22 degrees! Just great for drying out the dampness onboard. We sailed 36nm eastwards through 3 passes, having calculated the state of the tides for each. We were pleased to have the engine for the middle one, for, despite our calculations the current was against us at over 5 knots. We passed many islands, some inhabited but most just wild. We were pleased to return to this anchorage which is very sheltered and has nice thick mud for anchoring in. It really is a lovely stretch of sheltered water.
Went ashore at the anchorage to find the Rockhopper penguins, and observed that Magellanic penguins also hop from rock to rock when they need to, but not so efficiently. Gin and tonics enjoyed in the cockpit in a warm evening, serenaded by the call of penguins.
Ashore, we introduced ourselves to the owners of Dunbar settlement, Hugo and Marie Paul, who are also the owners of the yacht. Over a cup of tea in their kitchen, we learnt they have sailed extensively in the south Atlantic, and Hugo had over-wintered in Antarctic in a 9m aluminum yacht many years ago. Later, Colin and I walked southwards across the Dunbar estate to Stevelly Bay to visit another Gentoo penguin colony, and spent a couple of hours watching these very comical creatures.
Back at the ranch we had a good look at Hugo's slipway and cradle he has built. Because it is a very narrow creek he decided to build a cradle for the yacht which rolls on rails sideways up the shore. The cradle with the yacht in it stops above a concrete pit which is usually full of seawater, but which he pumps out, so that he can lower the centreboard and remove it for maintenance. Very ingenious, the whole system saving him a 1500 mile trip to Uruguay to haul out and maintain the underwater parts of the boat.
We also learn about the 'eatability' of the wild geese and penguin eggs. The latter sounds cruel but apparently, if you remove the first egg, the penguin will lay an extra one to compensate.
We walked back over the spine of the island - wonderful views to the Jasons in the North West.
This evening we dined ashore in the lodge. Fresh caught mullet from the fish traps, and a well stocked cheeseboard, all washed down with Chilean wine. The catering staff are Chilean. Rob, the owner is an islander and has lived here for 50 years.
The rain has come this evening, the first solid rain we have had for a couple of weeks. This is welcome as there is a drought here in the west, and there is a wild fire burning on Grand Jason. Apparently it is in the peat and also burning the tussock down the coast which is very bad news for the breeding penguins and albatross. A team is going out tomorrow to dig firebreaks and hopefully this rain will do the rest.
We'd love to have stayed longer at West Point, but the wind was in the right direction, so we hopped across the 8 mile strait to Carcass Island. Here there is a lodge, where a number of folk are staying with full board. Once ashore, we were immediately offered beer and wine as a welcome! Came across a lovely quote by John Muir, in a book about Carcass Island, which is belo "Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves."
This morning we moved the boat back nearer to the settlement. Then went ashore to watch the little red Islander aircraft arrive to deliver Clive, the electrician, and Kevin, a friend of Alan and Jackie. The pilot landed the plane in about 50 metres and rolled to a halt next to the landrover. Within 2 minutes people and freight unloaded and the plane away again, Bosun, the dog, giving chase up the grass strip. Spent the day cleaning rust spots off the deck, courtesy of the barge we were moored alongside in Stanley. Then ashore in the evening to have dinner with Alan and Jackie, Clive and Kevin. Learnt more about island life, politics and history. Great night, late to bed the wind now down and the row back easy.
When we weren't walking we were sitting at the enormous farmhouse table in Alan and Jackie's warm kitchen talking, drinking tea and learning about life here now, and life in former times. Jackie was here during the 1982 conflict, a 15 year old schoolgirl. Her father evacuated their entire family from Stanley, intending to take them to Port Howard, which is on the western island, with the help of an uncle's boat. The boat used to take passengers across Falkland Sound, between Darwin and Port Howard. Unfortunately the Argentinean's had commandeered the boat so when the family arrived at Darwin they were not able to cross and had to stay in Goose Green, which is a settlement close by. Then the Argentinean's rounded them up and imprisoned them in the community hall with 120 others, until the British retook Goose Green 29 days later. They had only 2 toilets and no changes of clothes. At least they were safe.
We arrived back on Ithaka just in time to re anchor towards the southern end of the bay in preparation for the southerly gale which is forecast for tonight. Now we hear the wind building again.
Back on Ithaka it was time to go. We left with double reefed main ready for the forecast 30 knots. It was there briefly but died away quickly so we hoisted full plain sail and headed west to this sheltered natural harbour on Westpoint Island. We rowed ashore and met Alan and Jackie who are employed by the, now very old, owners to run the island farm. He was getting ready for the electrical engineer who is flying in tomorrow to fix the wind generator. Most inter island travel is by plane. These people do not seem to be mariners.
We walked across the island to the cliffs on the western side where we found another Rockhopper Penguin rookery and a large colony of Black Browed Albatross, all mixed up with each other. The chicks of both species are grey fluffballs. I thought it must be frustrating for the young penguins to watch their albatross mates stretch out their wings and take to the air, and to realise that their little wings are only made for swimming.
What a sight met us as at The Neck! The anchorage is on the south side of a low lying isthmus with beautiful white sandy beaches to either side. It was like Bondi Beach on a hot, summer, local holiday. Thousands of penguins everywhere, stepping on each others toes, running after their mothers, preening, feeding the kids, scratching themselves, or just taking it easy. Gentoo, Magellanic, King and Rockhopper. On the grassy sloped rising up from the sea to the east, is a nesting site for Black Browed Albatross. The large, fluffy, grey chicks were sitting pretty on their cylindrical, one bird nests, and the parents were taking turns to soar the updraft on the long smooth hill, their 2.5 metre wings rigid in the evening breeze.
All in the space of a mile, and the inhabitants not the least bit concerned about our presence. What a very special place. It makes us feel so very privileged.
Pebble Island was used by the Argentineans as one of their air bases, and during that time, they kept all the island's inhabitants locked up. It's where the SAS successfully raided and disabled 11 aircraft, effectively changing the course of the war. Parts of crashed planes still litter the island. It's also where, a few miles north of the island, Skyhawks sunk the British ship, Coventry, killing 19 men.
Today we moved a short distance to Saunders Island, via a lovely stretch of protected water. Here we met the island's owners, Susan and David. Apart from sheep farming, they explained, they receive a welcome extra income from cruise ships, as the island is home to the King, Southern Rockhopper, Magellanic, Macaroni and Gentoo penguins, as well as many other birds and native plants. We're looking forward to spending time on the island, but are keeping an close eye on the weather, as the anchorage provides limited shelter.
However, an hour later the cloud front passed and the low evening sun illuminated our world. Subtle blues, greens, browns and greys under a big, big blue sky. The cries of thousands of birds; penguins wandering around on the beach, chatting in groups, some climbing off up the grassy sward to their burrows; giant petrels riding the updraft on the low hills to the east; steamer ducks leaving white wakes of spray as they "fly" across the water; the eyrie whistle of the oyster catcher, and a pair of dolphins cavorting around the boat. I sit in the cockpit drinking this glorious wildness. I feel very small and insignificant, a fly on nature's wall.
We will watch the weather and decide when to head further west. Meanwhile it is nice being at anchor again and away from the dust and grit of the commercial wharf in Stanley.
We've been here in Stanley four days now and are enjoying the town, the people and, surprisingly, the weather. They say it's a windy place which is very true, they say it's a place where you can have four seasons in a day, also true, but what we have found is pleasantly warm winds, occasional showers but nothing compared to Patagonia, and a fair amount of sun. We have spent a lot of time in the seamans' mission which is just across the bridge from this wharf. The coffee is free, there are hot showers, the washing machines are industrial jobs which really do the business, and the internet, although time based and very expensive, does work consistently and skype calls have no echo.
Stanley itself is a delightful town. We have spent many hours in the excellent museum, went to Church yesterday in the Anglican Cathedral and have found our way into most of the pubs. The people are very friendly and everything, is so very English. Such a contrast to the South America only a few hundred miles away. This, of course, is a continuing point of concern, with Argentina still laying claim to these islands, and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. We are learning a lot about the 1982 conflict which is still a very vivid memory for the people here. More on that later.
Today we have said goodbye to Beduin. She has sailed for the islands leaving us alone on the wharf. Gen decided to join Beduin for the remaining couple of weeks of her trip and she and Aleko are on a mission to see and photograph as many penguins as they can before her flight home. We are slightly more relaxed in our timescale (and about penguins) but will probably leave in the next day or so depending on the weather.
Arrived yesterday lunchtime to a sunny Port Stanley. Customs and immigration completed in record time. We walked along the coast into town, meeting smooth tarmac, red phone boxes, an anglical cathedral, pubs and a few mini supermarkets. We walked past modern houses with their gardens, some with decks and outside furniture. Had a pint in the Victory, and fish and chips in Tasty Treats. Apologies for not getting this sent last night, but I was overcame by....sleep.
Good progress in the fist 24 hours but then the wind went and we motored in some pleasant sun. Now the wind is back but in the north and we are hard on it beating up the east coast of the Falklands East Island. Hoping to arrive in Port Stanley at lunchtime.
We are on our way. The winds moderated last night and we lifted our anchor, and a few tons of kelp, at 0900. So far progress has been good and the sea has subsided slowly during the day.
Meanwhile the clouds are scudding eastwards up above us, and feeding williwaws from every direction making Ithaka dance to their tune. Not much rain today so we managed to wash some clothes in the stream, and while we there I washed my hair too, the water so cold it made my head ache. Nice when you stop though!
Bronner is also known for rebuilding a particularly attractive, octagonal lighthouse that had fallen into disrepair close to where we are now at anchor. It is known as the Faro del Fin del Mundo. He did it for the sheer pleasure of seeing it work again, as another lighthouse had been built in a more suitable place. Most people would think the reconstruction to be senseless, however when we visited the lighthouse this afternoon, we came to understand and appreciate why he undertook such an enterprise. Apart from being a lighthouse it also serves as a refuge for any traveller or mariner who finds himself without shelter, a sort of bothy. From the lighthouse log book the last visit was a month ago. While here, we have seen no other people or boats.
This inlet was first named Puerto Austin but later Captain Henry Foster gave it the name Puerto Hoppner, for what reason, we know not. Such are the random white man namings of places in this part of the world. However, the small and sheltered anchorage where we lie is named Caleta Poppy (as of today) after our cat who would really enjoy the wide variety of small birds that we find here. =^..^Our other cat, Isla, already has more islands named after her than is reasonable, but she particularly approves of Isla Hunter. =^_^
I'd been disappointed not to have done the Cape Horn rounding, but come to realise while staying in Puerto Williams and Ushuaia, that every man and his dog can do that these days in fast speed catamarans and cruise liners. Today it was more important for me seeing the most south eastern end of the continent, in the company of albatross, whales and penguins, and not another boat in sight, well, apart from Beduin. Beduin had a slightly slower crossing, sailing with just her jib, having blown out her mainsail in the strong, gusty winds yesterday. The sewing machine will be in use tomorrow.
So Ithaka and Beduin lie at anchor, in yet another amazing caleta. We are surrounded by many tall mountains. Puerto Hoppner consists of a wider, outer bay, and a smaller inner basin at its head. The entrance channel to the basin is very narrow and shallow, so we had to wait for high tide to enter it. Inside the basin are a number of wooded islets, perfectly enclosed.
Ana spent many hours, probably days, in Ushuaia, applying for, and chasing the permits for Estados and Malvinas We often wondered if we should not just go without them, but it does feel good to know that we comply with the Argentinean laws, even if we do not agree with them. It will be interesting to see if anyone ever asks for them.
We managed to do a lot of work on Ithaka during our stay. Gen serviced all seven winches, I stripped down and rebuilt the seawater cooling pump on the engine, we fitted a new Raymarine mast head wind sensor which our friends Robert and Armelle had hand carried from France. We also had a very sociable time with other boat crews.
Today we sailed east along the Beagle Channel, back past Puerto Williams and into a narrow pass to the North of Isla Gable. We found this little bay and anchored, then pulled ourselves into the shore with a rope around a tree. Beduin is just alongside.
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