Robbie just yelled "LAND HO!" from the cockpit at the exact moment I sat down to write this note and advise you that, well, land is ho! We've spoken to the nice gentleman on St. Helena Radio and informed him that we expect to arrive in Jamestown Bay at 1600 hours this afternoon.
It's St. Huh LEE nuh, by the way, not the St. HELL uh nuh we've always assumed. Locals always rule in regard to name pronunciations we reckon.
This has been quite a jolly passage, growing warmer each day, always plenty of wind to sail - until just now when the breezes have eased to under 10kts and we will motor to make the anchorage in bright daylight. The sweet little mahi mahi was delicious and our only catch of the trip, but I'm grateful not to have had to stare another grumpy barracouda in the face and sacrifice an animal that we would not eat. (It's very difficult to throw a barracouda back alive, they're so hard to handle without inviting a deep puncture wound.) I can't remember how much I admitted to you of the challenges we faced in the Indian Ocean and Mozambique Channel, but suffice it to comment here that the autopilot works like a charm; we have ample fuel for the passage, having motored only a few hours since departing Cape Town on 2nd February; the very fancy iCOM M605 VHF radio and remote mic that Robbie and I installed in Cape Town produced 5x5 comms with a ship 30nm away; our new Ullman Sails have no tears in them; the radar works; not a single jerry can has burst its restraints and run about on deck in the midde of the night; not a drop of water has found its way into the cabin, not even off dripping clothes, because no clothes ever dripped; and nothing has even flown across the cabin of its own volition, a commonplace on most passages. We have rolled left and right, left and right, much more than we like, for it interferes with sweet dreams, but on a 100% dead downwind passage, that's to be expected unless one nearly doubles the distance by gybing repeatedly to take the swell at a more comfortable angle. We did that for a while, then experimentd with alternative sail configurations, finally landing upon one with a poled-out genoa and furled main that enabled us to minimize the roll and make better progress. Either that or we just got used to the rolling! It does leave one more exhausted than one might expect.
So we'll spend a little time at St. HelEEna, visit the place where General Bonaparte was imprisoned for six years, socialize with Wakanui friends, Nadine, Rowen, Melia and Harvey (Rowen recovering in hospital from boat repair injuries sustained more a week ago) and await the arrival of SY Sisu, bringing Frik and Petro to the conclusion of their first ever offshore passage. We're as excited as they are and will have the bubbly ready to pop when Sisu sails into the anchorage.
Gosh! I feel like we're completing our OWN inaugural passage! It IS our first passage in the Atlantic Ocean, it's been easy and uneventful and we're ready to celebrate! Thank you for following our adventures and joining the fun! Happy Valentines Day!
What a delightful passage from Cape Town to St. Helena! We're about 270nm from Jamestown Harbour and are beginning to watch our speed closely, monitoring the likelihood of the required arrival by daylight. We don't arrive in unknown places in the dark, will stand off till daylight if necessary,and at the end of a long passage we'd REALLY rather not postpone dropping the hook! Generously sacrificing her life for our dinner, the smallest mahi mahi I have even seen chomped down on our lure last night. She'll provide two generous portions, but I've got the tackle back in the water today hoping to attract some of her older relatives. Yesterday's discussion over coffee was about learning to sail. Why does it seem as if we breezed across the South Pacific under constantly azure skies, with no crises, no equipment breakages, and no question more complex than whether to use the spinnaker or the genoa? Did we know more then than we know today so answers were ready for whatever situation might arise (whereas today they are not)? Our conclusion was that, no, we did not know more then. In fact, we knew so very little about what we were doing that we didn't even recognize the challenges when they presented and, neophytes that we were, we just blundered along with a healthy dose of God's protection, some good luck and a well-built vessel that was only 2 years old. Good grief, how much we have learned! And how fortunate we were to come unscathed through some idiotic sailing.
We no longer take the chances we used to take, for example, and we don't put Mersoleil through the torture that she used to endure, and probably still could, but now we know better! We don't sail into questionable weather, we reduce sail long before the winds put excessive stress on our rig, and we're long past beaching our dinghy in pounding surf - heck, we stay on board instead and figure we'll visit that little beachfront bar tomorrow! All this reflection was occasioned yesterday while we extended the whisker pole to the third click, it's longest extension, to fly the genny as big and flat as possible ahead of us while we ran downwind at an angle of 170 degrees. We never tried this before and, to be truthful, have rarely used our pole effectively. Yesterday we tweaked the foreguie, after guie, topping lift and the inboard end of the pole a hundred times before we were satisfied that it could take the strain of the wind in the sail without snapping in half at the middle. Like a flying buttress directs the weight of the roof of the cathedral safely to the ground so the walls will not collapse under its weight, the whisker pole delivers all the weight of the filled sail and the heaving lines straight back to the mast and down to the keel of the boat. Have we ever done this right before? Darned if I know. Probably not! So.... what have we learned in nearly eight years at sea? We're beginning to realize how very little we know, how very much there IS to know about this sport, and how lucky we have been to be protected time and time again from our own idiotic mistakes! Quite humbling! Yesterday, too, we crossed the Prime Meridian for the very first time! More exciting even than an equatorial crossing, something we've accomplished numerous times, we have just entered the Western Hemisphere again at the front door having left through the back on our last trip to Fiji in 2015! Now that is indeed something to celebrate!
OK! It's day six of our passage from Cape Town to St. Helena and we have survived the icky bit, the first days when one wants nothing more than to sleep and can't do it even when time is available. Ew! Now we're in the breezing along stage! Mersoleil left Cape Town in the late afternoon last Saturday, moving right into a cold damp night with near shore fog, prompting us to learn how to use our new VHF radio to operate the fog horn. For the first few days we had nice brisk winds, 15-25kts mostly, and lots of gybing practice, so while distance made good is nothing to brag about, we covered a fair amount of water and got pretty accomplished at bringing the boom across with full sail and no drama.
The wind will dust our stern for nearly this entire passage, and when the breeze dropped this morning to less than 9kts we set the pole and are now, one can hardly say running, poking along might be more to the point, wing and wing, with the main to port and the genoa to starboard. We always hope a w/w sail plan will stop the rolling in dead downwind conditions. Note to self - It does not. But it's amusing to look up at our lovely new sails spread out against the sky and there's little one can do to tweak the rigging once it's all set up, so we're settled in for a leisurely afternoon, or day, or few days, or possibly a week.
St. Helena is less than 1000nm away, we've gobbled up almost half the distance and are having a grand time.
Nights grow warmer as each day passes. So far, I've worn the same clothes every day, (there's a prize at the end of the passage for having the least laundry) but last night I never felt chilled and tonight I'll have to scale down by one layer. Here at 26 degrees S it's too warm in the sun for any of the long and fleecy garments we've been wearing so a new wardrobe plan is evolving.
To learn more about our passage, check out www.yit.nz/yacht/mersoleil. We don't post daily updates, but unless we're tired or in crisis we get some bit of news up there every couple of days while on passage so our family will understand we still live..
We send our love and beg for news from your end. We've plenty of time to read!
On Saturday afternoon, the 2nd of February, we pried ourselves away from Cape Town, the lovely V&A Marina and five kind friends waving goodbye at the dock. Our visit to South AFrica was another highlight of Mersoleil's cruising career and we have much to share with you about South Africa when time allows. About the dear people we met and with whom we shared our time, about her version of the English language, about her cuisine, about the differences among "now." "now now," and "just now," the superior marine services we received and, too, about her struggle to recover from a long sad tradition of hateful relations among her own people, one that seems struggling to survive. It will be at least another week before we reach St. Helena, and we're already well on our way on one of the easiest passages we've enjoyed in years. The trade winds do not disappoint, as usual, though I do wonder how they can manage to be always directly at our back or on the nose. We're making huge gybes avery hundred miles or so swinging about 80 degrees to keep the wind on one quarter or the other. If .we did the obvious thing, sailed straight on with the wind directly behind, we'd be wallowing like a piggy in the mud and everything inside would fly about causing an awful mess.
It was not time to leave South Africa, and we depart sad to go, but it is time to begin making our way to the Mediterranean if we want to enjoy summertime there! Life is very very good and we are grateful.
Christmas in South Africa
Until this year we knew Kevin Butcher and Suzanne Hedley only as other yachties, fun, enjoyable folks who live on the water like we do, visiting the islands and the peoples who live at sea level around the world. But they have a secret life, as some cruisers do, we do not, on land at their South African home outside Cape Town and their riverside getaway, Tides River Lodge, some twenty miles up the Breede River from the south coast.
Robbie and I spent Christmas 2018 with Suzanne and Butch, their family and friends, some 22 in all, at the river, enjoying delightful South African holiday traditions and cuisine.
Six hours' drive from Cape Town we descended 2000 feet from the rich farmlands of the Cape Fold Mountain valleys to the arid coastal plateau and eventually nearly to sea level where the Breede River rises and falls with the tides while the sea lies a further 30km down river. There was some doubt as we bumped and skidded along 47km of dirt road between the N2 and the lodge whether our little RentaCheapie Toyota, barely a few inches off the ground, would be up to the task of returning us to higher ground at the end of our stay and we resolved to be among the earliest vehicles to depart in case assistance was needed in pushing our little buggy up some of the steeper inclines.
Walking, swimming, eating, drinking, reading, socializing with new friends, bird watching and afternoon-napping filled several happy days at the lodge where our group filled all bedrooms in the four cozy homes on the property. The rustic locale did not prevent us laying out an elaborate candlelight Christmas feast as you can see below and we'll not soon forget Christmas 2018.
No blogs available for this yacht.