It worked out, the two sons are finally here in Mindelo and after last dinner at the floating bar in the marina, the following morning we were off. The weather window looked good for a week with BF 4/5 and a wave height of between 2 – 3m.
We started together with our Italian friends on “Ciganka” but after half an hour we already had a good lead with BF 5 and slightly higher waves up to 3m. Perfect conditions for “Maya” and we were sailing with 7 – 8 kn. We set only the genoa because the wind came from astern.
The first two days we made good progress but then the wind dropped. In total it is 2080 miles and we wondered how long we would take because at that moment we barely made 4 kn.
It took us and our crew a while to grow into our night shifts. The shifts are 2 hourly, so you always get 6 hours of sleep in between, although sometimes it was just laying in bed with eyes shut.
Thanks to Stugerone (Cinerizine) in the beginning I didn’t even get seasick and was able to cook for the crew the whole time, although it became a real challenge in rougher seas. As stuff flew through the air with each violent roll, it was almost dangerous to cook more complicated menus.
On the 3rd day we were accompanied for quite a while by a family of white beaked dolphins which are characterized by white lips and a white lower jaw. On the 4th day two fin whales crossed our way right in front of “Maya”. Unfortunately I was not fast enough with the camera. Incredibly impressive to be so a close to the whales. Where I always prefer a safe distance to not disturb the animals.
When the wind was only at BF 2 we set our big cruising chute which gave us at least 5 kn. It is amazing how stable the boat lies in the water with this sail and hardly rolls at all. Setting the chute is always a bit tricky, even with the new “sock”, but the two young crew soon had it worked out. Getting it down in strong winds (and squalls) could be a challenge and more than once there was “All hands on Deck” to wrestle the thing back into the locker.
At night we sailed only with our genoa so that we did not come into the situation that the cruising chute needed to go away quickly with increasing wind strength.
To keep up with the weather we used our SSB radio and “Pactor” modem to download “GRIB” files which always gave a current weather report that helped very much. It also allowed short emails to and from home which was a welcome distraction.
After 7 days we had more wind BF 5/6 and waves up to 3m. These high Atlantic waves are quite impressive especially at night and also a bit scary. Fortunately we had full moon in the first week which makes a significant difference because you can see so much more. We also had the “Southern Cross” constellation shining down on us during the night. This is a true indication of how far south we actually were.
We sailed with a reefed genoa and maintained 7 knt, sometimes even 8 knt. We made good progress and could then celebrate the halfway mark after 7.5 days. For some reason this was marked on the electronic chart as a “Petrol Station” by someone on the crew.
Anyway there was a Creole beer for everyone to celebrate the day and I had success fishing – a beautiful large Dorado, which I then immediately cooked for the crew for lunch.
We also took a welcome shower; in fact we were allowed showers every third day courtesy of the water maker (This is a machine that slowly makes freshwater from seawater). A nice shower is a real morale booster and the crew always looked forward to it.
And how nice in this somewhat high swell came a single fin whale and accompanied our boat for several hours. He swam quite fast always from one side to the other and dived under our boat. He was probably looking for company and it was obviously fun for him. Then he disappeared and reappeared after 2 days and stayed for a few hours. Very interesting.
Our Italian friends with whom we were in contact via “Sailmail” had been left 300 miles behind. It turned out that they had autopilot problems, but we were still much faster!
When the wind allowed we would sail with the genoa and a pole, the pole holding the genoa at 90 degree angle to the wind. This was a very successful setup and could be easily reefed single handed when necessary
From my friend Marlu we had been given a complete Advent calendar with a package for each day. As it approached the 24th December we were still in the middle of the Atlantic. We celebrated Christmas Eve as in Germany and the next morning (Chrismas Day) traditionally English. Loz had received from his girlfriend a whole stocking with gifts that were both amusing and appropriate. A special (but hardly traditional) curry Christmas dinner was made. John had made a traditional Christmas Pudding in Germany and brought it with him!
I’ll never forget Christmas night watching Tim Burton’s “Nightmare Before Christmas” with the boat charging along at 6 – 7 knt in the moonlight. We were keeping watch – honest!
Every noon (12 o’clock) we entered our exact position on our chart of the Atlantic. That way we could slowly see that we were moving in the direction of St. Lucia.
Again and again smaller squalls (particularly when Damien was on watch) passed through but the further we came towards the Caribbean the weather improved.
Definition of squall:
a sudden violent wind often with rain or snowMerriam-Webster
It was much warmer and the sea temperature rose to 24 C. Again and again the sargasso weed appeared which finally made me reel in the fishing line because the seaweed kept getting caught in it.
Every morning we found flying fish on deck, sometimes up to 4 or 5. Unfortunately they were usually dead, but we did rescue a couple. One windy night Lawrence was almost hit by one and we joked about someone having a “Flying Fish Gun”. They can cover a distance of over 100 meters with a speed of up to 50 km/h.
We wanted to arrive before New Year’s Eve in Rodney Bay St. Lucia and as the wind dropped a lot during the last few days, we had to motor in calm conditions for two nights. During this calm period I was even able to have a wash day and hang up the laundry. About 200 miles before St. Lucia the wind came back and we had BF 4/5 and could sail again making good speed.
Slowly my fresh supplies were also nearing the end like avocados, bananas, papayas and also mangos. I am amazed at how well the vegetables and also fruit held up in our net outside. Unfortunately one of the two nice melons was a victim of the rolly seas at the beginning – we never noticed it going overboard. We also never noticed the entire flag pole and proud flag disappearing one day…
Then finally on the 15th day we saw in the distance lights and knew that left was St. Lucia and to the right we could see the lights of Martinique. What a great feeling to see land again!
Unfortunately the boat was moving really fast and we had to reduce sail to slow down or risk arriving at 0200 in an unfamiliar anchorage in the dark. Lawrence wasn’t pleased about this but eventually understood (I think).
Around 0600 (in the morning) we reached Rodney Bay and went first on anchor for us to rest. Incredibly we had made it and were relieved to be there. All in all we met only 2 sailing yachts, three tankers and a cruise ship during the 2080 miles. One of the tankers was 330 meters long and 64 meters wide; one of the yachts almost collided with us! And how it should be different of course always at night with a collision course.
St. Lucia is located 400 kilometers north of Venezuela in the eastern Caribbean and belongs to the Lesser Antilles. It belongs to the English speaking Windward Islands and is 43 km long and only 22 km wide. St. Lucia had belonged to the British Crown Colony since 1814 and gained complete independence only in 1979. The economic mainstay of the island is agriculture and tourism.
From afar you can see the lush green of the rain forest and the fine white sandy beach in Rodney Bay. After an extensive swim in the 25C water and a hearty breakfast, we headed into the marina for 3 nights. Finally sleeping through the night again. Wonderful!!!
The check-in was fortunately no problem and also our Covid PCR test made in Mindelo was accepted because the time at sea with 15 days was sufficient to act as “Quarantine”. Actually, the PCR test should have been done only 48 hours before. A real relief and there is also the face mask regulation in restaurants and stores. The marina is very nicely laid out and there are a few nice restaurants and a small supermarket on the water side.
We spend the next few days washing the boat and exploring the area. A day tour by cab across the island was not cheap, but we got a very good impression of this hilly and unholy green rainforest-like vegetation. We saw the famous and photogenic lava mountains Gros Piton 798m and Petit Piton 736m, which rise steeply from the sea near Soufriere. At the sulphur springs inland it was a bit too crowded for us, but the two crew went in and got “muddy”!
After three days we sailed on a beautiful day with BF 4 and no waves to the Pitons and anchored there. To lie between these photogenic Pitons at a mooring buoy is just wonderful . Now John and I had the feeling we have finally arrived in the Caribbean.
The only problem then were the “boat boys” that come out in all manner of small boats trying to sell you all kinds of things (including tours or a BBQ on your boat). It would be OK, but they charge more than three times the normal price for stuff, are very persistent and numerous.
Anyway the 1st big ocean is done and we are glad to have had such a good crossing.