Saturday, April 22, 2017

St. Lucia: up against a wall



        I was awakened last night at 11:30 p.m. by the sound of whooshing water and an engine right beside my head.  For a startled moment I thought I was still at sea and that something terrible was hapening, but when I realized I was on the v-berth I knew I wasn’t.  I sat up, pulled back the screen and stuck my head out the forward hatch to find the above wall sliding past me.  It belongs to a 45’ Lagoon charter boat.  Could there be a greater contrast between boats?  I have to crane my head to see their deck level.  GANNET’s freeboard is 2’.  Their’s must be 7’ and at the bows perhaps 8’.  I feel as though we are in a hole.  The little boat is certainly walled in.


        A new Windex was noisily installed on the masthead this morning.  Some people are quiet and some aren’t.  I hope this one lasts longer than the last.

        I bought four 2 liter/.5 gallon bottles of water in St. Helena in addition to my four 5 gallon/19 liter jerry cans.  I drank the water bottles bought in St. Helena at the beginning of the passage and arrived at St. Lucia using my third jerry can of water.  I had at least 8 gallons of water left.  Considering that I don’t fill the jerry cans to the top, I used about 14 gallons of fresh water on the passage, which included a cup most days to wipe myself down with, or about .4 of a gallon/1.5 liters a day.

        I sent many more emails to Carol than usual on this passage.  The Yellowbrick app worked flawlessly.  I started emailing to ask her to bring out a few items, such as a new JetBoil stove and Apple lightning cables, but we continued on almost a daily basis.  To email you link the Yellowbrick to your phone via Bluetooth which, of course, increases battery use.  However, the Yellowbrick was still at 34% charge upon our arrival at Rodney Bay.
        As we neared land I changed its updating from 6 hour intervals to 1 hour at the suggestion of some readers.  The track still showed us crossing land, but could be figured out.

        I just realized that a year ago we were still in New Zealand.  I had to look at the passage log to be certain.  We sailed from Opua on April 26, 2016.  We arrived in Rodney Bay on April 18, 2017.  In slightly less than one year GANNET crossed the Tasman Sea and two oceans and covered 15,608 miles.

        Carol is above the Atlantic Ocean.  Her flight is due to arrive in a few hours.  She will be here for a week.  I won’t be posting during that time and perhaps not even answering emails.  If you get bored you can always visit the main site, look at some photos, read the introduction and the credo or some articles or stories, study the lists.  All better than watching the evening news.
        See you in a week.

Friday, April 21, 2017

St. Lucia: St. Helena to St. Lucia passage log



March 14
South Atlantic Ocean

0850  Dropped mooring, let the wind push the bow north and set jib.  

The rainiest morning since I’ve been at St. Helena, but not hard now.  Pelagic steering because it can better withstand being wet.  Wind off the starboard quarter and inconsistent.  I expect it to steady as we move beyond the wind shadow of the island, though that may take a while.

Yesterday afternoon after clearing with the officials in the morning and having a final lunch at Anne’s Place of grilled wahoo and salad and two scoops of vanilla ice cream topped with a coffee liquor called, I think, Midnight Mist, I rode the 1:00 p.m. ferry back to GANNET where I went into full passage mode.

I brought in the flag and the fenders I had out for the ferry, changed into passage clothes which increasingly are difficult to distinguish from my harbor clothes, sealed up my knapsack and shore boat shoes.

While standing in the companionway watching the sunset Sunday I idly spun the Harken 20.2 winches and discovered that the port one was only one speed rather than two.  My first attempt to solve the problem that evening was unsuccessful, but I disassembled the winch yesterday, cleaned and oiled pawls, and again have two two-speed winches.  One speed is usually more than enough on GANNET, but it is pleasing when things work as they are supposed to.

Last evening I stood in the companionway and watched terns flying beside the cliff.  The scene is dramatic.  I would not anchor here in a thousand lifetimes.  The moorings are a huge improvement.  When I was here before there were no moorings and I did anchor, but to the west side of this indentation.

At 1700 the mail ship sounded its horn twice, upped anchor and steamed north for Ascension Island.

I was up and down, standing in the companionway and sitting at Central watching shifting grey, silver and black clouds,

St. Helena has been a perfect stop.   Understandably expensive with a small population and limited competition and everything brought from great distance.  The mooring is rolly.  Often GANNET bumped hard against the mooring float.  It did not matter.  I enjoyed myself.

1200
15º51’S    005º53’W
day’s run   11 miles  COG   290º   SOG  4.4
St. Lucia   3714 miles   295º

The rain remained on St. Helena until 1030, but did not follow us out to sea.  At 1100 the sky began to clear overhead and is now mostly blue, though clouds are hanging about the island.  

The wind went light.  Our SOG dropped to less than 3 knots, so a half hour ago I set the G2.  With it we are making more than 4 knots and sometimes 5.  I also switched to a Raymarine tiller pilot because they are quieter.

Foul weather gear and the two lines I used as mooring pennants are in the cockpit drying.

Wind now 5 or 6 knots.  Sailing with forward hatch open.

If I remember correctly the rule on wind shadows is that they extend eleven times the height of the object causing them.  Rounding St. Helena up to 3,000’  that would make a wind shadow of 33,000’ or 5.4 nautical miles.   While we are well beyond that I still don’t feel that we are in clear wind.

1430  Wind increased.  G2 down.  Making 5 and 6 under jib alone.  I’d like to go to sheet to tiller, but the wind angle is too deep.

It has turned into a fine day.  St. Helena visible 22 miles distant.

1600   In the past hour the wind has backed and I gybed to a starboard deep broad reach, and a wave flopped through the open companionway onto the by then dried foul weather gear.  We are still sailing with the forward hatch open and no water came in there.

I was willing to lope along the last week into St. Helena, but we have too far to go to do that now.  Stronger wind or a different wind angle would help.  I’ll let us go on this way tonight and see what tomorrow brings.

St. Helena no longer visible.

1930  And then there was one.  The third Raymarine just died.  I left Durban with four. 

I switched to the Pelagic, but am going to try to set up sheet to tiller, though it is presently completely dark.  An almost full gibbous moon is due up soon.

2015  Orange rim of moon just above horizon.  Starry sky.  We have sheet to tiller steering.  Reefed main and partially furled jib.  I set the full main at first, but GANNET rushed off to the north at 8 to 10 knots.  Fine if someone were hand steering to bring her back on course, but I’m not going to spend the night doing that.  Getting the boat balanced in the dark, even with a headlamp, is difficult enough.  I’ll adjust sail area in the morning if necessary. 

An active first day.

Blessed quiet.


March 15, Wednesday

0815  I was up at 0630 to the usual cloudy dawn and discovered that we had light rain during the night.  The companionway slide was fully aft, but I did not have the slat in place, so the port pipe berth was wet.

Normal trade winds of 12-14 knots.

I drank most of both cups of my morning coffee standing in the companionway, listening to music—a ‘less than 5’ playlist, that is tracks less than 5 times played, a lot of Leonard Cohen whose albums I bought last fall after his death.

GANNET could carry more sail, but not perhaps without taking off on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, and I am reluctant to make changes when the balance is right.  We are sailing high of the rhumb line, which hardly matters at a distance of 3600 miles, but on the deepest starboard broad reach possible with sheet to tiller.  I haven’t touched a thing since I set it up last night.

The lights on the solar regulator show that charging is taking place, but that the batteries are partially discharged.  This is odd for we are using no electricity at present and only the masthead tricolor LED last night, whose draw is negligible, after the Raymarine died.  

Continued complete low cloud cover.  Rain in places about the horizon.  I’m seeing SOG of 5 to 6.8 knots, hopefully averaging close to 6.

1200
14º31’S   007º27’W
day’s run   122  miles      COG  320º      SOG    5.8
St. Lucia   3597 miles   295º

The day has become sunny, half blue sky, half white clouds.  Wind 12-14.  Waves 4’-5’.  Deep blue.  Scattered white-caps.  Steering unchanged.  While the run to noon averages 5 knots, we went slower in the afternoon and faster since going to sheet to tiller.  I think we are moving comfortably at a 130+ mile a day pace, and that is good enough.

We will enter a new time zone this afternoon.  GMT -1.   I’ll reset ship’s time after 1200, so the next noon to noon run will be 25 hours. 

1230  Wind backed.  GANNET heading too much north.  Gybed to port broad reach. 

1430  Gybed back to starboard.  Good sailing, but too high or too low.

1600  A dark band of rain to windward.  Perhaps it will pass behind us.  I hope it does not bring a significant wind shift.

1715  Rain inconsequential.  A rainbow formed to the east, but we got only a few drops.  Rain presently scattered about the horizon.  Blue sky overhead.  GANNET sailing well.  

I’m up and down standing in the companionway.  Music.  Gin and tonic.  To be followed by roast lamb and vegetables.

1930  Complete darkness on deck except for the masthead tricolor.  Perhaps when the moon comes up it will shine through the clouds.

We are not getting wind speed, but still getting wind angle.  I’m tired of replacing masthead units.

Expecting rain sometime tonight, I’ve put the slat in the companionway.  Still sleeping to starboard.


March 16, Thursday
South Atlantic Ocean

0615  Full work out before I even finished my orange juice.

I woke at sunrise at 0530 to find us heading 345º.  I put on my foul weather pants to try to keep the seat of my shorts from getting wet, went on deck, gybed, took the reef out of the mainsail, rebalanced the boat, and threw three flying fish overboard.  We’re now pretty much on course at 5 knots.  The dawn, by the way, was spectacular.

I removed the slat from the companionway last night at 2230.  The Great Cabin was too stuffy.

We have lost wind speed.  Still have wind angle.  Worryingly the solar charger still shows batteries partially discharged and yesterday I only used the masthead LED and charged my phone and my laptop.

Nice to look at the chartplotting apps and see us going the right direction.

Now perhaps I can finish my juice and even have a cup of coffee.

1200
13º01’S   008º54’W
day’s run     125 miles     COG  284º    SOG  5.2
St. Lucia   3483 miles   295º 

Wind has lightened.  About 10 knots.  Sunny overhead.  Clouds moving up from astern.  

A couple of accidental gybes this morning.  With a preventer line to the boom to keep it from flying over, both the main and jib were backed and GANNET hove to until I went out and muscled her back on course.

1400  Clouds have brought intermittent light rain and inconsistent wind.  I’ve had to adjust the steering—a shock cord a loop out, back in, out, in—several times.  Rain now.  Cabin closed, hot and stuffy.

1500  Rain has passed.  At least for now.  Blue sky and trade wind clouds to the west.

I gybed my bedding to the port pipe berth and the Avon, food bags and foul weather gear to starboard. 

I got hot and sweaty in the closed cabin and will give myself a minimal fresh water wipe down before a sunset drink in a couple of hours.

1745  Almost complete low cloud cover blocking sunset, which was only a brief brightening to the west, but GANNET is sailing well, slicing down waves at 6 and 7 knots, bow wave rising to the deck.  I stood in the companionway, listening to Eva Cassidy, sipping a tequila and tonic, and watched her go.


March 17, Friday
South Atlantic Ocean

0200  Not a good night for sheet to tiller.

I woke at midnight to find us stalled.  The wind had weakened to perhaps five knots and the jib no longer had the power to balance the two shock cords and piece of surgical tubing which had brought the wind forward of the beam with the mainsail feathering.

As I went on deck a flying fish hit the back of my head.  Instinctively I reached back to brush it away and flipped my headlamp into the ocean.  I had three.  One died.  One has now drowned.  One left.  There are a lot of small flying fish on deck.  I’ll clear them away in the morning.
I removed one shock cord and moved another back a loop, but I knew that when the wind returned this would result in a gybe.  It did almost as soon as I returned to the Great Cabin.  The preventer failed and the boom went all the way across.  After I muscled us through a reverse gybe and back on course, I checked the preventer.  I assumed that the shackle on the snatch block had broken, but it hadn’t.  The car had bent and lifted from the track.  So I slid a cleat on that track, more robust than the car, and ran the preventer line through it.  I can’t do this so easily on the port side where the jib furling line is tied off to the cleat there, although perhaps I can move the furling line to a jam cleat.  Stronger genoa track cars go on the shopping list.

I rebalanced the shock cords and jib sheets.  Went below.  And have been up and down ever since.  Maybe we are balanced now.

To midnight we were averaging six knots.  We’re just below that now.  Good sailing.  Almost flat sea.  Dark sky with clouds blocking stars and moon.

0240  And now the wind has gone light again.

0700  Understandably tired this morning.  I finally went to sleep at 0300.  Was up again  a half hour later.  And then slept until 0600, when I put on foul weather pants to try to keep dry the clean shorts I put on yesterday afternoon, went on deck and mutually startled a large brown bird that was sitting on the stern pulpit—he squawked and flew away—balanced the steering and threw almost a dozen small flying fish overboard.

Despite all the fluctuations, we are having some good sailing and a good day’s run.  Almost a six knot average.

When I returned to the Great Cabin I drank a box of juice and then just sat there for a while, not even wanting to move to make coffee.  Finally I did and am sipping while I write.

At one point I observed that this year’s sailing was up rather than across.  From Durban it seemed that way, but this passage is west more than north.  Rounding off, St. Helena is 16ºS   06ºW.  St. Lucia is 14ºN  61ºW.  So 30º of latitude and 55º of longitude.  I know that except at the Equator a degree of longitude is less than a degree of latitude, but all this passage is in the Tropics and the rhumb line of 295º much closer to west than north.

1200
12º36’S   011º19’W
day’s run   144 miles      COG   280º    SOG   6.2
St. Lucia   3345 miles    296º

Despite light wind after a band of light rain passed an hour ago, we got our six knot day.

Partial clearing with patches of blue sky.

I was surprised and pleased to find this morning the light lit on the solar charger indicating that the batteries are fully charged .  I was thinking about removing some bags and measuring the battery charge directly, which is more work than I want to do today, and now won’t.

1750  Chicken Tikka Masala steeping.  Shuffled playlist of movie soundtracks playing.  Gin and tonic on cabin sole held in place by my right foot.  GANNET sailing beautifully.  Before coming below a few minutes ago to heat my meal while there is still daylight, I stood in the companionway for a half hour or so.  There are some 5’ and 6’ waves.  GANNET catches them and skips over the ocean like a stone thrown across a pond.  I considered reefing the mainsail to have a quiet night, but the little boat is going too well as she is.  If she gybes, I will reef tonight.  I need some good sleep.

1845  While awake last night from midnight to 0300 I rewarded myself with the last drink in a bottle of Laphroaig given me by Greg, a neighbor in Durban Marina.  I still have two bottles on board and went forward and retrieved and opened one of them, having first taken one of my two Dartington crystal glasses from its bubble wrap and ziplock bag.  Then went and stood in the companionway watching the dying of the light in the west, stars appearing in the night sky, GANNET making her balanced way across the sea, the wind cool against my skin.  Joy.


March 18, Saturday
South Atlantic Ocean

0630  A beautiful morning.  Powder blue sky with scattered clouds on the horizon.
I had the quiet night I wanted.  I went to sleep around 2000, woke briefly a couple of times during the night, and got up rested at 0530 first light.  GANNET sailed almost level and is on her way to another six knot day.

The solar charging light again shows the batteries partially discharged.  I’ll have to run some tests.

A small flying fish on my pillow this morning.  Other
hotels leave chocolates.

0900  The batteries are low.  12.1 volts.  I don’t understand why unless one or both of them is failing, and they were new last year and shouldn’t.  The solar panels are putting out 20.4 volts.  The regulator shows charging.  We have had plenty of sunlight.  And we have been using minimal power for the past several days.

Hot this morning.  Sweating just sitting still in the Great Cabin with the companionway open.  Too much spray over the bow to open the forward hatch.

1200
12º31’S   013º48’W
day’s run   145 miles     COG   270º   SOG  6.0
St. Lucia  3213 miles   298º 

Despite bright sunshine and good solar charging, the batteries are reading lower than they were earlier this morning.  I’ve checked at all the connections.  I’ll look at them again this afternoon.  Something is wrong, but I don’t know what.

The jib sheet wears a groove in the deck.  It did so last year.  I brought along some carbon fiber angles to try to make a smooth surface that wouldn't wear, but they did not fit.  This morning I tried to run the sheet through a block with a pennant that let it rise above the deck and change the angle of the sheet to the next block.  It did, but created more problems than it solved with the sheet rubbing against the shrouds and boom vang, so back to the way it was.

But for the batteries it would be a beautiful day.

1245  I disconnected everything.  Each solar panel.  The wires from the solar panel buss to the regulator.  The wires from the regulator to the batteries.  When I reconnected, the lights show charging and the batteries full.  I don't believe it, but will wait for further developments.

I will next try to use the Solar Boost regulator.  And if that doesn’t work I will wire one or two of the 25 watt solar panels directly to the batteries.  If the panels are small enough a regulator isn't needed, but I don't recall the exact ratio.

1800  The sun is behind clouds just above the horizon.  A beautiful trade wind day.  Except for a line of clouds to the west, the sky is clear.  The wind has decreased slightly and so has our speed.   At 1800 we are slightly below a six knot average since 1200.

Late this afternoon I wiped myself down with a few paper towels and a cup of water.  Quite refreshing.

Tonight, as has been usual on this passage, I was able to stand in the companionway with my evening drink and listen to music as GANNET sailed toward the setting sun.  Our course has been west.  We are half way between Africa and South America and are crossing to the other side.   The eastern corner of Brazil is about 1200 miles away.  If nothing changes, I’ll close to within 200 miles before gybing to the north.

Of solar charging, if all fails and I lose all electricity, I have three power cells that can charge my iPhone enough for navigation.  I will still have my LuminAid cabin lights which charge themselves, a flashlight that can be charged both by solar and a built-in hand crank, and, as long as it continues to work, wind angle readings from the Raymarine wind display which can charge itself.  I also have many rechargeable batteries for other flashlights and my headlamp.  I’d have to hand write this log in a note book.  I would lose the masthead LED, the tiller pilots, music and being able to read on my iPhone.  If that happens, rather than just sit here and look at the overhead, I might slather on sun screen and go out and steer GANNET myself.  We would go faster that way.

March 19, Sunday
South Atlantic Ocean

0700  Another beautiful trade wind morning.  Wind continues light.  Our average about 5.5 knots.  A G2 day but I don't have the electricity for a tiller pilot.  I took a battery reading when I got up at 0530.  11.7.  Very low.  What is difficult to understand is why a system that was working has stopped.  I’ll crawl aft and see if I disconnected any wires to the Solbian panels when I stowed fenders and lines leaving St. Helena.  Then connect to the other regulator.  Then connect some panels directly to the batteries.  Then do without, which will be really boring.

1200
12º28’S    016º01’W
day’s run  130 miles     COG 272º    SOG   5.5
St. Lucia   3098 miles     299º

The past two days we’ve sailed almost due west, having come up only 8’ of latitude.  We are about a thousand miles off the Brazilian coast.  Sailing with forward hatch open.

The numbers are going up on the batteries.  12.34 a few minutes ago, so some charging is taking place.

I bought four 2 liter/.5 gallon bottles of water in St. Helena.  I poured the last into my day water containers this morning.  They will last until after breakfast tomorrow, when I will first use water from one of the 5 gallon/19 liter jerry cans with hopefully less than 3,000 miles to go.  I divide long passages up, often ten degree segments of longitude or latitude, time zones—four from St. Helena to St. Lucia, thousands of miles to go.  Tomorrow’s 3,000, assuming the trade wind holds as I expect it will, is about the same as a North Atlantic crossing from New York City to London.

1420  Unable to sail higher than 250º, I gybed to starboard where we are sailing at 325º to 335º.  Too high, but I’ll leave us here for a while.

While on deck I noted that sailing toward the sun, all of the solar panels are in the shadows of the sails most of the afternoon.

I inventoried my optional drinks and have 40 cans of beer, tea, soda water, sparkling juice, which should permit one each afternoon for the remainder of the passage, so I opened a Heineken.


March 20, Monday
South Atlantic Ocean

0500  Last quarter moon overhead.  Clear, starry sky.  The Southern Cross to the south.  First suggestion of light on the eastern horizon.  

I’ve been up for a half an hour when the wind, which was light, became lighter and I felt GANNET sailing too high.  I first moved a shock cord a loop farther from the tiller.  Then removed the length of surgical tubing.  Then fully unfurled the jib.  In combination they moved us from a beam to a broad reach.  The G2 is the right sail.

Back in the cabin I removed the bag that sits on top of the battery compartment and measured the charge.  11.99.  An improvement on yesterday morning’s 11.7, but still low.  No tiller pilot.  No G2, unless I decide later to sit out there and hand steer.

For most of the night I was spoiled.  GANNET sailed smoothly and level.  I didn’t really need the lee cloth and slid the companionway hatch aft only to deflect flying fish.

0800  I often see the sunset standing in the companionway.  This morning I saw the dawn, from first twilight, to pastel peach and blue, yellow and orange, to blazing gold.

About a half an hour ago we passed the 3,000 mile to go mark.  Now 2,997.  But that is to a waypoint off the south coast of St. Lucia.  Rodney Bay is 30 miles north.

0830  When I stood in the companionway a few minutes ago I was surprised to find a ship three or four miles north of us.  Orange hull, heading northeast toward Europe.  I don’t recall the last ship I saw.  Perhaps not since near Cape Town.

1000 The full jib was collapsing and filling too often, so I put a couple of wraps in it which has helped.

1200
10º54’S   017º28’W
day’s run 126 miles    COG  330º   SOG   5.4
St. Lucia  2978 miles  299º

I’ve had lunch, a can of tuna with crackers, part of a can of tea—it says ‘ice’ on the label.  I’m still looking for it—and dried fruit and will now go on deck to try to get us to sail further off the wind.  Sunny, beautiful day.  Battery 12.48, but that is with current entering from regulator and will drop back after sunset.

2200   Two hours ago I sat on deck rather than stand in the companionway and sipped a tequila and tonic while watching the sun set as GANNET eased west.  When I went below to prepare this evening’s  freeze feast, the Jetboil wouldn’t work.  The threads had stripped and I couldn’t attach the gas canister.  This happened once before when I was in New Zealand and could order a new one on the Internet.

I dug out my back-up stove, not a JetBoil, but I haven’t looked at it in years and it is corroded frozen.  So air temperature instant coffee and freeze dry dinners.  I’ve done it before.


March 21, Tuesday
South Atlantic Ocean

0730  Another beautiful day.  Wind only about 7 knots.  Sea almost smooth.  GANNET sailing smoothly in the right direction at 5 knots.  Bach harpsichord concerto on Megaboom.  Air temperature coffee not bad.  I’m even having a second cup.

1200
09º31’S    018º52’W
day’s run  118 miles     COG  320º   SOG   4.6
St. Lucia   2866 miles     298º

A respectable week’s run of 910 miles.

Wind lighter.  I removed piece of surgical tubing.  Tiller presently balanced by one thin shock cord.  Sun is hot, as one would expect nine degrees from the Equator.  Sailing with forward hatch open.

1545  I went forward and transferred some supplies to the Great Cabin,  snacks, cookies, chocolate, paper towels, crackers, dried fruit, Laughing Cow cheese, and clean clothes.

Wind lighter.  Five or six knots.  Even one thin shock cord three loops from the tiller is keeping us too high.  I will gybe tomorrow and see what course we can sail on port. 

1815  Dinner of air temperature Roast Chicken with Vegetables, including mashed potatoes, washed down by boxed white wine, was quite satisfactory.  My cooking which was limited to boiling water now excludes even that.  Simplify.  Simplify.  Though this is perhaps excessive.

1830  GANNET was heading too far north, so I gybed a few minutes ago just at sunset.  COG now about 285º.


March 22, Wednesday
South Atlantic Ocean

0700  A slaughterhouse out there.  Twenty or thirty 2” flying fish flew the wrong way during the night.  

Gybing last evening was a good decision.  I could feel us sailing a little high, slightly south of west, but it was more important to avoid an accidental gybe.  I was up again just before another spectacular dawn and removed the surgical tubing and eased the remaining  shock cord to bring us to 280º.  There is so little tension on the shock cord that GANNET is a little squirrelly.  If the wind, now about 8 knots, picks up hopefully I’ll be able to make the adjustment in time.

The second thing I did was take a battery reading before solar charging.  A satisfactory 12.40.  High enough so that I could consider using a tiller pilot and the G2.  If the wind goes lighter I will, but we are getting about as much from this wind as we can.

I’m getting spoiled.  I’m dry.  GANNET is dry.  She sails with both hatches open.  A wave hasn't come on board for days.  I stand in the companionway.  I sit on deck.  I sleep well on a mostly level berth.  I almost forget that crossing oceans on GANNET is not always like this. 

1200
09º06’S    020º27’W
day’s run  96 miles     COG 276º   SOG   5.2
St. Lucia  2772 miles    299º

1800  We are nearing the western side of this time zone and the sun has yet to set.  

Today was just like yesterday and the day before and the day before.  Moderate trade winds.  Sun.  Blue sky.  Regularly spaced puffs of low white cloud.  GANNET continuing under sheet to tiller steering with full main and partially furled jib.

I saw first light and a beautiful dawn.

I had my usual breakfast of juice, a vitamin pill, two cups of instant coffee, uncooked oatmeal with trail mix, protein powder, dried milk and water.  The coffee was air temperature.

I shaved and flossed and brushed my teeth and gargled with Listerine.

I finished reading a very good book, WAR by Sebastian Junger, of THE PERFECT STORM fame.  I found WAR more original, thought provoking and interesting.  And I started THE POST OFFICE GIRL by Stephan Zweig.  

I sprayed Exit Mold on mold growing at the aft end of the cockpit.

I pulled us back on course after two accidental gybes.  I felt both coming and was halfway out the companionway but couldn’t reach the tiller in time. 

I threw a couple of dozen small dry flying fish overboard.

I put the LuminAid light I am using in the cockpit to charge.  It did quite quickly.

I ran wires from the batteries to the SolarBoost 3000i so I can read the battery charge on its display.  That has remained at 12.4 all day, during which I only charged my iPhone, my MacBook and three rechargeable batteries.  I can get by, but something is not right.

I lunched on a can a mackerel, crackers, dried mango and water. 

Frequently I stood in the companionway and watched waves, sunlight and GANNET sliding through them.

I drank a can of fizzy grape juice and ate some corn chips.

I adjusted the steering a few times as the wind slightly increased and decreased.

In late afternoon I wiped myself down with a cup of fresh water and paper towels.

I made a gin and tonic and drank it while standing in the companionway, listening to Loreena McKennitt.

For dinner I ate unheated freeze dry sweet and sour lamb, accompanied by a plastic of boxed white wine, with part of a fruit and nut chocolate bar for dessert.  

I’m still listening to Loreena McKennitt and sipping the 
wine.

I saw a spectacular sunset and will soon watch stars appear.

And GANNET sailed west.


March 23, Thursday
South Atlantic Ocean

0615  The wind went very light last night and I was on deck twice adjusting the steering.  When I woke fifteen minutes ago I found that the wind had also backed and we were heading 240º.  I gybed us and we are now sailing the rhumb line around 299º for a rare change.

Light on the eastern horizon, but the sun is not yet up.

1000 We have real solar charging again, rather than token.  I hooked just the Solbian panels to the SolarBoost 3000i and they are putting out 3.7 to 4.0 amps and the battery charge is 13.5 and rising, showing the batteries are charging.  The regulator prevents the charge level from rising above 14.4.  Something about one or both of the Aurinco panels was compromising charging.  By far the worst purchases I made outfitting GANNET.  I already intended to replace them as soon as possible. 

1200
08º41’S    022º11‘W
day’s run   106 miles      COG  306º   SOG   5.9
St. Lucia    2669 miles   299º

Seeing charging from Solbian panels as high as 5.6 amps.  The sun crossed the Equator two days ago and is more than 80º above us at noon, maximum solar charging conditions on this sunny, mostly cloudless day.  I am so pleased that this is working again.  The problem probably began when I introduced the spare Aurinco panel into the system.

The wind has backed enough so that we are no longer on the broadest possible reach of 150º-155º, where the main starts to blanket the jib, but sailing at a wind angle of about 130º.

We’ll enter a new time zone this afternoon.  I’ll change ship’s time.  Tomorrow will be a twenty-five hour day.

1600  The Solbians raised the battery charge today from 12.4 to 12.7.  I noticed that we got little charging after 1400 when the panels began to be shaded by the sails.

My back is bothering me, so I took ibuprofen and did my age in crunches on the port pilot berth.  GANNET would not always be steady enough for that to be possible.  One or the other or both have helped. 


March 24, Friday
South Atlantic Ocean

0900 A little more wind today, 12-14 knots.  With restored solar charging I had thought I might set the G2 with a tiller pilot steering, but we are moving along well enough.

With each day almost identical to the day before, there is a sense that GANNET has become a ‘painted ship on a painted sea’, that we are always in the same place, sailing endlessly toward South America, as I once wrote about a boat sailing eternally toward Africa.

The best times of day in the tropics are dawn and dusk.  Perhaps from force of habit I put on my underpants, shorts, t-shirt and shoes when I first get up in the morning, but am down to underpants alone by 0900, except when I go on deck and put shoes back on.  I stopped going barefoot on deck several decades ago when going forward on RESURGAM to let go the anchor I smashed my foot into a chainplate and broke a toe.  Shoes also have better grip than bare feet, including on the Great Cabin floorboards which are slippery when wet.

1200
07º18’S   023º48’W
day’s run   127 miles   COG  320º  SOG  5.1
St. Lucia   2545 miles   300º 

An hour ago a wave thumped on board.  The first in many days.  Maybe more than a week.  I had both hatches open.  The spray hood was up over the companionway to provide shade and it kept most of the water out there.  A lot came in through the forward hatch.  I mopped it up with paper towels and closed the hatch.  I’ve since reopened it in the hope that the wave was a one off.  The Great Cabin is almost intolerable when that hatch is closed.

1600  Wind has gone light, six or seven knots, and backed.  GANNET was heading north.  I gybed a few minutes ago.  Now heading 280º-300º.  


March 25, Saturday
South Atlantic Ocean

0610  Up many times last night adjusting the steering.  Wind too variable.  One accidental gybe.  So with re-established solar charging enabling me to use a tiller pilot, at least for a while, first thing this morning I engaged the last Raymarine, fully unfurled the jib, lowered the mainsail, and gybed.  We are now sailing the rhumb line at 4.5 to 5 knots, the speed we have been averaging for the past few days under main and partially furled jib.  The G2 may go up after I’ve had coffee. 

1030  The waves have not caught up with the wind.  Waves from port quarter.  Wind from starboard.  I have become spoiled this past steady week and have started to leave objects unattended expecting they will remain in place.  This cost me half a cup of coffee in the bilge this morning when a wave rolled us to windward and the cup sitting on the floorboards slid.

We continue under jib alone, making five and sometimes six knots.  I think the G2 would go up only quickly to come down because the tiller pilot couldn’t keep up.

The solar panels are increasing the battery charge in addition to powering the tiller pilot.

1200
06º47’S   025º36’W
day’s run 112 miles     COG   306º    SOG  5.6
St. Lucia   2437 miles    300º

Sunny, but more low clouds today.  Possibly rain to the north.

We are 440 miles from Brazil’s Ilha de Fernando DeNoronha and 500 miles off the mainland.

1800  The moisture in the air and clouds passed without raining on us and sunset saw the usual trade wind sky with 2’ and 3’ waves

Standing in the companionway, listening to music and sipping red wine, something coming from astern caught my eye.  I turned and found myself looking up at the curling crest of a 9’ wave.  “My word!”  I said aloud, or something to that effect.  Seething, it did not break and passed harmlessly beneath us.

1945  I went back and sat on deck after sunset with music from the Megaboom and a second tumbler of red wine and watched the twilight disappear.  The clouds disappeared too, absorbed in the cooling sky.  Stars came out and a planet to the east.  Orion was overhead.  The Big Dipper to the north, though I could not see the North Star.  Sailing south I have seen it disappear beneath the horizon as Dante imagined in his INFERNO.  As I noted that was a great feat of imagination because when he lived no European sailor had crossed the Equator.  Although I could not see it then, on recent nights I have also still been able to see the Southern Cross.

The darkness was not complete.  Stars and planets and the Milky Way in the sky were perhaps the source of enough light to reflect the facets of the sea.  And GANNET’s ghostly bow wave and wake.

The wind was pleasantly cool.

I really like this little boat.

I have known such beauty.


March 26, Sunday
South Atlantic Ocean

0600  Light wind during the night caused me to decide to set the G2 when I woke this morning, but light rain at 0500 that had me searching for the companionway slat and a 6 knot SOG have changed my mind.  The rain has moved ahead and is off to the southwest.  

The tiller pilot has lowered the battery charge to 12.5.  I am curious to see how much the Solbians can bring it back up today.

1200
05º39’S   027º16’W
day’s run   121 miles     COG  308º  SOG   5.7
St. Lucia   2316  miles    300º

Rain vanished.  Another trade wind day.

1800  Battery charge at sunset 12.7.

1930  Back in the Great Cabin after sitting on deck most of the past three hours.  Often I stand in the companionway.  Standing is good, but I spend most of a passage sitting at Central or sleeping on a pipe berth.  This passage, at least this first part, has been like GANNET’s first ocean passage from San Diego to Hawaii, with moderate trade winds and dry decks.  So I have sat up there longer than I would have stood in the companionway.   

I sat listening to music with a tumbler of white wine before returning to the Great Cabin for this evening’s Louisiana Rice and Red Beans, which even after soaking for fifteen minutes was crunchy indicating it had not fully hydrated.  Tasted about the same as though the water had been heated.  The lack of a stove in these latitudes is not a problem.  If I were in a cold climate, it would be.

I returned to the deck after my feast.  I am more than half blind, but what vision is left is still superior to any camera.  There is a great image that can’t be accurately photographed of GANNET making her way through dim post-sunset light.  The triangle of her jib barely visible again the sky.  Her white deck reflecting star light.  Her bow barely visible.  Ghost white bow wave.  

Sail on.

March 27, Monday
South Atlantic Ocean

0645  I just set the G2.  I’m not sure how long the tiller pilot will be able to handle it.  SOG 6 to 8 knots.

A lot of flying fish on deck, both bow and stern.

Battery charge level at dawn 12.5.  The same as yesterday, indicating that in these nearly perfect solar charging conditions, the two 50 watt Solbians provide enough power.

Time for air temperature coffee.

1200
04º28’S   028º52’W
day’s run 120      COG  311º   SOG   6.2
St. Lucia    2198 miles   300º

Wind a few knots lighter and has backed a few degrees causing us to alter course slightly north of the rhumb line.  G2 still set.

I have found that with the wind well aft, the spray hood acts as a wind scoop.  I put it up to provide shade and there is perceptibly more breeze coming below than when it was down.

1345  Well, that was an expensive fiasco.

The wind backed so I decided to gybe the G2.  I do this by furling the sail and then unfurling on the new course.  The space between the G2 furling gear and the forestay is only a few inches.  Not enough to pull the sail easily through the slot.

When I went to furl the G2 the shackle securing the tack of the sail to the furling drum let go.  The G2, still secured at the head and by the sheets, streamed out  horizontally in front of us.  I managed in time to lower and get it back on board, with only the foot of the sail dipping into the ocean, but while doing so one of the sheets wrapped around the Velocitek in its mast bracket and playfully flipped it overboard.  I saw it go, but had a spinnaker sheet in my left hand and the halyard in the other.  It passed just in front of my face, hit the deck, and bounced once.

The easiest way to dry the sail was to set it again.  I sorted through the tangles.  Found a spare shackle.  My last.  And reset the sail flying.  I got it up seemingly without twists.  It is set now.  I assume it will furl properly.  We’ll see in a couple of hours.

It is not like me not to seize a shackle.  That is to tie the pin so it can't drop out.  Obviously I did not do this one.  The new shackle is seized.  

I am really hot and sweaty and thirsty.  Not to mention $600 poorer, the cost of a new Velocitek.  I am going to have a warm beer.

1745  Not the usual trade wind sunset.  A line of dark cloud to the north with rain has dissipated, but there are layers of cloud, low, medium, high, with some blue sky.  Even when the sun is  near the horizon, it is hot in these latitudes.

The wind has gone light.  5 or 6 knots.  Certainly G2 weather, but I’ve had enough drama today and will hope for a quiet night under jib alone and see what tomorrow brings.

1915  I took the Sportaseat and sat on deck this evening after dinner—tonight venison risotto—as I did last evening and watched the vivid colors of sunset fade to pastels—light blue and diluted peach linger longest—and then darkness, and the first stars appear.  

Within an hour of sunset most of the clouds on all levels had disappeared.

I looked up at the stars and remembered on EGREGIOUS imagining a fellow sailor voyaging on the oceans of a planet circling Antares.  Looking up tonight I am certain there are other Webb Chiles sailing oceans on distant planets, dozens, perhaps thousands, and thought that though we may not resemble one another,  if their oceans are water, I expect that I would understand their boats and could sail them, as they would understand and could sail GANNET. 

A universe of oceans.  A universe of fellow sailors.  Fireflies of light against eternal darkness.  Voyage on.


March 28, Tuesday
South Atlantic Ocean

0745   A lot of hazy moisture in the sky this morning.        We are only 208 miles from the Equator and may be nearing the convergence zone.

I gybed twice last night.  At 0130 from starboard to port and at 0430 back to starboard.  The wind continues to back slightly.  I may raise the main and go to sheet to tiller steering.  The dawn battery reading was 12.4.

0900 Gone to sheet to tiller steering.  Full main and two or three wraps in jib.

I seldom go outside without a hat.  Yesterday in sorting out the unexpected G2 debacle I was on deck for an hour without a hat and the top of my bald head got sunburned.  I feel it today.

1200
03º15’S   30º29’W
day’s run   121 miles    COG   308º    SOG  5.6
week’s run  803 miles
St. Lucia   2077 miles   300º

Hazy sky continues.  

We are already north of the latitude of Fernando De Noronha and slightly less than 200 miles from the Equator, though of course we are not sailing directly toward it.

Not quite a 5 knot week.  Acceptable considering the wind strength and angle.  We should have a better wind angle when we reach the northeast trades.  The unknown variable is the doldrums.  The further west we meet them the better.  It is even possible to make an end run around them in this ocean.  I expect I will find out this coming week.

1430  A few minutes of light rain an hour ago may have marked the end of the southeast trade winds.  We have very light wind now from the northeast and a sky of mixed clouds.  More or less sailing the rhumb line at 4 and 5 knots on a beam reach in about that much wind.

When the rain began I thought:  I should bring in the Raymarine.  And then remembered that I already had.

We are 300 miles off the nearest point of the mainland coast of Brazil.

1700 Rain from north to east to south.  Only a few drops falling on us. Distant thunder.  I put up the hood, but haven’t closed the hatches yet.  The Great Cabin becomes very uncomfortable very quickly with closed hatches in the tropics.

My 1600 routine now includes doing 75 crunches.  Since resuming them my back is better.

Following crunches I go into the cockpit with a cup or so of water and paper towels and wipe myself down.  In the past I have often bathed in salt water.  Most bars of soap won’t lather in salt water, but many dish liquids and shampoos will.  Drying with a towel afterwards removes most of the salt.  But the fresh water rinses are satisfactory and refreshing.  I also use wipes, like Wet Ones.

1730 Heavy rain with an increase in wind.  I had to go out and adjust the shock cords on the tiller.  No problem.  I only had on a pair of shorts.  Another fresh water rinse.  GANNET making 7 and 8 knots across smooth water.  I don’t think this rain will last long.

1830  It didn’t and left us flopping becalmed pointed east.  When light wind returned it was 180º, from the southwest.  We are presently lurching our way sort of west.

Post sunset battery reading 12.7.

1910  I couldn’t get GANNET to sail anywhere between 270º and 360º, so brought out the Raymarine which is keeping us pointed about in the right direction as we roll and flop. clash and bang at 2 knots.

1930  Clearing sky.  Stars visible overhead.  A flash of lightning to the south.  Wind settling from northeast.  If it becomes steady enough soon, I’ll try to go back to sheet to tiller.

2015  Lowered mainsail to reduce noise and stress on rig.  Making 2 knots under flopping jib alone.  We aren’t going anywhere tonight.

Listening to Villa Lobos and sipping an end of week two Laphroaig.  I don’t really need an excuse.

2030  I have a hitch-hiker, a large persistent brown bird sitting on the stern pulpit.  I chased him away a couple of times while I was lowering the mainsail, but he continued to return.  I don't mind giving him a place to rest if only he will not mess my deck or solar panels.  Pelagic birds are not boat broken.  At the moment the bird’s dangerous end is pointed seaward.


March 29, Wednesday
South Atlantic Ocean

0720  A half hour of torrential rain has just ended and GANNET is no longer a dry boat.  The rain was a solid wall of water pounding on the deck.  It was as though GANNET were sailing under a waterfall.   Two bolts are leaking on the aft side of the forward hatch.  I removed the Velcro I normally have there to secure a screen and can see the drips.  Water is also coming in where the wires from the mast pass through the deck.  This is just forward of Central.

We were becalmed most of the night.  At 0300 I got up and furled the jib and brought the Raymarine below.  Three large brown birds were on GANNET.  One on each stern pulpit.  One on the tiller.  They had indeed fowled (sic) the solar panels.  Being pelagic they had probably no experience with men and displayed no fear even when I was close to them.  Shouting did no good, so I swung the end of a halyard at them.

 I got a bucket, dipped sea water and cleaned the mess off the solar panels before it could harden.

At 0600 I got up and took a Pelagic arm on deck, unfurled the jib and tried to get us to sail, unsuccessfully until a dark line of rain brought wind.  I engaged the Pelagic and trimmed the jib and made it to the Great Cabin just in time.

The wind has decreased with the passing of the rain.  We’re sailing about 315º at 3 knots on a starboard broad reach.  I’ll set the main soon.

When I sailed RESURGAM from Rio de Janeiro to the Caribbean we had strong wind and current behind us after we turned the corner of the Brazilian coast.  The northeast trades are north of us, but I don’t know how far.  I’ll sail any course I can between  290º and 350º.  This will be, I think, my fifteenth crossing of the Equator.  I’ve never been slowed too much by the doldrums, but there can always be a first time.

0830  Almost complete cloud cover.  Only one or two brief tiny patches of blue.  

I just set the mainsail.  Light rain began as I was doing so.  The wind is from the NNW.  We are sailing 290º at 4 knots on a starboard close reach.

1010  The sky is higher.  The low clouds gone.  And the sun, though not visible, is casting shadows and providing some charging.  GANNET is a wonderful little boat.  She is sailing 5 knots on a close reach in not more than 6 knots of wind and perhaps only 5 across an ocean like a gently undulating meadow.

1200  
02º40’S   031º27’W
day’s run  67 miles    COG 300º    SOG 3.7
St.Lucia  2010 miles    300º 

The wind has veered northeast and is now on the beam.  Still only 5 or 6 knots.  Still cloud cover, but mostly thin overcast through which the sun is shining and providing us with 5.7 amps charging at present. 

The closest point of the coast of Brazil is 270 miles abeam.

1430  Blue sky overhead, cloud and rain around the horizon.

The wind has continued to veer.  Now in the east and we are sailing 330º at 3 knots.

An hour ago a ship passed a few miles west of us heading south.

1630  We have 1,198 miles to go to the waypoint off St. Lucia and another twenty or thirty to our port of entry at Rodney Bay.  Presently making 2.4 knots in about that much wind, the chart plotting apps show our ETA on May 5.  The wind has backed to the northeast.

I washed myself in salt water this afternoon, using shampoo as soap.  Pouring buckets of sea water over  my body was refreshing.

1920 I sat on deck after a feast of spaghetti Bolognese and boxed red wine, sipping 2,000-miles- to-go Laphroaig and watching the stars and first sliver of new moon appear.  GANNET making 4 and 5 knots 
almost close hauled in that much wind.  We have not had more than 6 knots of wind in the past two days.  My plan, in as much as I have one, is to keep GANNET moving as fast as she can  on whatever wind angle is best between 290º and 360º.


March 30, Thursday
South Atlantic Ocean

0630  Becalmed.  We sailed at 2 and 3 knots during most of the night, but were becalmed at 0430.  I lowered the sails.  Raised them again at 0530 when I thought I felt a slight breeze.  It has vanished.  The sails are still up but mostly flapping.  I may lower them again.  The battery charge this morning 12.3.  We need to go to sheet to tiller, but the wind, such as it is, has been too light and variable.

Clouds on the horizon, but mostly clear sky.  Sun just rose.

0700  Sailing.  Close hauled starboard tack.  2.7 knots 315º.   270 miles off Cape Calcanhar.  North wind 4 knots. 

0725  Sailing with tiller tied down to try to let batteries recharge.  

0740  That didn’t work.  Wind has veered NE.  Now sheet to tiller.  4 knots 330º.

1200
01º55’S    032º18’W
day’s run  68 miles   COG 325º   SOG  3.0
St. Lucia  1943 miles   300º

Still sheet to tiller but the wind, never more than 5 knots, has gone lighter in the last few minutes and I’ve had to go on deck twice to bring us back on course, which is anywhere between 300º and 350º.  Only one surgical tubing balancing the full  jib.  Sunny and hot.  93ºF/34ºC in Great Cabin with both hatches open.

Good solar charging as is to be expected with the sun 85º above us at noon.  I’ve seen as high as 7.2 amps.

I spread sealant on the leaks revealed yesterday.  

Looking forward to cooling off with a salt water bath later this afternoon.

1430  Trade wind sky and no wind.  Averaging 2 knots.

1800  12.69 miles since noon.  A lovely day, but not for sailing.  I just switched from sheet to tiller to the Pelagic which will keep us pointed in the right direction.  I don’t recall when we last had more than five knots of wind.  Probably three knots now.  If it dies completely tonight, I’ll lower the sails and drift.

Battery charge at sunset 12.7.

We’re 104 miles from the Equator, but not heading directly for it.


March 31, Friday
South Atlantic Ocean

0750  Rain this morning.  Not as heavy as the deluge we sailed under two mornings ago, but more persistent.  GANNET is sailing on a close reach and I have the spray hood up which is enabling me to have the companionway hatch partially open.  I could see it all around the horizon when I got up at 0600.  

The Pelagic kept us moving during the night at about 3 knots.  

The battery charge was 12.4 at dawn.

We are at 01ºS.


1200
00º51’S   32º52’W
day’s run  72 miles   COG  320º   SOG 1.8
St. Lucia  1883 miles   299º

Rain ended at 1030.  GANNET flopping about; sails collapsing and filling in very light wind.  Still almost complete cloud cover. 

1630  An unpleasant day.  Inconsistent very light wind.  Small waves and swells but big enough to roll wind from sails.  Lots of banging and slamming.  Little progress.  Averaging less than 3 knots since noon.

High clouds.  Some patches of blue.  No rain since this morning.

1830  Enough wind, four or five knots, and diminished swell to keep wind in the sails.  We’re making 3 knots around 325º on a very close reach.

Battery charge at sunset 12.3.  Hopefully more sun and able to go to sheet to tiller tomorrow.

First crescent moon to the west.  On its back here, belly up.


April 1, Saturday
South Atlantic Ocean

0720  An unpleasant day followed by a difficult night.

At 2300 we were all but becalmed and I decided to lower the sails.  When I stood in the companionway I could feel a slight breeze and heard thunder to the east.  The sky was completely overcast and dark and I could see nothing.  I left the sails up, putting a preventer on the boom to keep it from crashing around.  An hour later rain and wind reached us and for a brief while GANNET was making 6 and 7 knots.

That ended after another hour.

At 0430 we were again flopping about almost becalmed.  I again considering lowering the sails, but the chartplotting app said we were making 2 knots, so I retrimmed and left them up.  I myself stayed up as well.

The slight wind shifted several times.  Once doing a 180º from east to west.  But there has been wind for the past two hours.  GANNET is presently making 3.7 knots on 327º close hauled on starboard tack.  Complete overcast.  Mostly high clouds.  Rain to the west.  The sun is sometimes casting shadows.

Battery level at dawn 12.2.

SOG now 5.2.

1000  From too little wind to too much.  

GANNET was sailing at 7 and 8 knots under full main and partially furled jib toward a black sky with an advance guard of white-caps.  The Pelagic was being overwhelmed.  Faster than putting a reef in the main, I lowered it and we continue under partly furled jib  just forward of a beam reach at 5 knots.  The deepest darkness has yet to reach us.

No solar charging so far today.

1200
00º02’S   33º37’W
day’s run   67 miles    COG 320º    SOG 4.4
St. Lucia   1820 miles    298º

We are two miles south of the Equator and should cross over it in the next hour.  

Sky still dark ahead, but lighter to the south.  The SolarBoost continued to show no charging, though I was certain we had enough sunlight to have some.  So I changed the wires back to the solid state regulator and the battery charge has increased from 12.2 to 12.5.  

We’re on a close reach.  When whatever is in front of us clears, I’ll raise at least part of the mainsail and try to get GANNET to steer herself.

1245  The Moore 24 Southern Hemisphere Fleet no longer exists.  GANNET crossed the Equator at 1235.  Her second crossing of the Equator.  Her first was on July 13, 2014 in the Pacific Ocean on the passage from Honolulu to Apia, Samoa.  This was my fifteenth crossing.

Time to see if I can get more sail set and non-tiller pilot steering.

1300  Sheet to tiller achieved.  Making 5 and 6 knots, beam reach, full main, partially furled jib, pretty much on rhumb line.  I’d like to be higher, but I’ll settle. 

1700  Continued almost complete overcast.  Just a few blue patches to the south.

We’ve had wind all afternoon with GANNET averaging five knots, which is exciting only when you’ve averaged only three for days, but it backed and weakened following a line of rain a half hour ago.  We are being forced to sail west toward the mouths of the Amazon 850 miles away.  Sheet to tiller handled the passing rain and wind changes.  I hope wind lasts through the night.  And beyond.

1800  All silver and gray.  Gray hulled GANNET sails across a sea of molten lead beneath a  sky of pewter and steel.

I didn’t get much sleep last night.  It would be nice if tonight were uneventfully restful. 

Battery charge at sunset 12.4.  So we did get some charging today after I moved the wires.

1830  Wind has gone very light.  Almost disappeared.  We’ve lost sheet to tiller steering and are now sailing sort of close hauled on starboard tack with full main and jib and the tiller tied down.  This won’t last.  I won’t use the Pelagic tonight.  When I get tired of trying to balance the steering, I’ll lower sails and drift.  Damn.

1840  That didn't take long.  Becalmed.  Sails down.  A figure of speech.  Main down.  Jib furled.  GANNET drifts.


April 2, Sunday
North Atlantic Ocean

0530  Quiet.  GANNET rocks gently, but she is about as steady as she would be in most harbors.  The sun has yet to rise, but the sky is mostly clear.  No wind. 

While I don’t remember each previous transit of the doldrums in detail, it is my impression that they have not usually slowed us much.  They didn’t in the Pacific three years ago.  They have certainly slowed us this time. 

I debated last night whether to light the tricolor or the anchor light at the masthead.  I went with the tricolor, though the anchor light might have been more appropriate.

We have drifted back to within two miles of the Equator.  If we go over I’m not going to count the extra crossings.  Fifteen is enough.  I don’t want to do this again. 

0915  Sailing at 3 knots.  Main and jib. Pelagic steering.  Too light for sheet to tiller.  We have drifted back to within a half mile of the Equator.  Last sunset we were eight miles north.  Becalmed fifteen hours.

With the sky mostly clear, we definitely should have solar charging, so as an experiment I moved the wires from the solar panels back to the Solarboost 3000i this morning and it shows input of 2.4 amps.  Why it didn’t show charging yesterday and the other regulator did, I do not know. 

1200
00º07’N    34º10’W
day’s run    34 miles   COG  314º   SOG  3.3
St. Lucia   1787 miles   298º

Sheet to tiller steering for the past hour.  The Pelagic was fine, but I prefer silence when possible and the lack of power draw.  High clouds and overcast are moving toward us from the south.  

1430  Pelagic steering.  Wind too light to balance sails and tiller.  A line of towering thunder clouds with anvil tops across the southern horizon.  Ahead clear.

1530  Essentially becalmed.  Pelagic keeping us pointed in the right direction.  Sails up.  SOG 1.2 knots.  GANNET drifts that fast with sails furled.

1700  Becalmed.  Mainsail down.  Jib still flopping around and enabling Pelagic to keep bow pointed in right direction.  We have made 13 miles since noon.  Disappointing and frustrating.  We crossed the Equator 28 hours ago and are now 15 miles north of it.  Expletive deleted.

1845  An hour ago within sixty seconds the wind went east to west.  

There is beauty here even in frustration.  At sunset rain was falling on the western horizon and then it reached us.  I saw a narrow dark band, ten or twenty  yards wide and perhaps a hundred yards long.  I thought it odd and that it was wind.  It was odd, but it was a narrow band of rain.

I don’t believe in this west wind.  It will not last.  I have not raised the mainsail.  I will see what happens tonight. 

2200  The first quarter moon reflects on a glassy ocean.  There is not a breath of wind.  Jib furled.  GANNET drifts.  We have made 22 miles since noon. 


April 3, Monday
North Atlantic Ocean

0645  Becalmed.  Dark clouds with towering thunderheads just catching sunlight all around.  Glassy sea.  Rain and wind at 0100 had me engage Pelagic and set jib.  We sailed for an hour.  Rain and wind ended.  Jib furled.  Pelagic turned off.  Drifting north rather than south.  Rolling more.

0930  Rain has moved ahead of us.  Clearing to the south.  Just before it hit at 0715 I set the partially furled jib.  I knew there would be strong wind beneath those clouds.  GANNET took off at 8 and 9 knots.  In the Great Cabin I realized I had not set up the running backstay.  I took off my clothes and went naked on deck and got a cold fresh water rinse while setting up the backstay.  

GANNET was heeled gunnel deep.  Water blasting off stanchions.  When I went to furl the jib further, the wind was too strong for me to bring in the furling line until I loosened the jib sheet completely, which caused the sail to flail wildly and the jib sheets to snarl together.  The wind then was more than 30 knots.  The sea still smooth, but its surface a white froth.  I got the sail furled to storm jib size and untangled the sheets and went below to towel off.

The Pelagic steered through all of this.  

The wind is weakening.  I hope it doesn't vanish completely.  I’ve let out more jib. 

1200

00º51’N    34º40’W
day’s run  54 miles    COG   310º  SOG  3.8
St. Lucia   1739 miles   297º

Full main and jib.  Wind light.  Sky clear above, but clouds to the south.  At least, for now, we are still sailing.

1645  We still have wind and are sailing.  I just switched to sheet to tiller.  Full main.  A couple of wraps in jib for balance.  

We’ve been seeing huge patches of drifting sea weed all day which is odd because we are more than three hundred miles offshore and there is nothing to windward of us for more than a thousand miles.

I hope this wind holds.

1815  We are still sailing.  Two boobies are hunting around GANNET.  One dove and caught a fish just off our bow.

Except for a rain cloud to windward and astern, I like this sky and the look of the sea and the feel of the wind.  I dare hope that we are through the doldrums. 

Cloud, vanish with the sun and don’t steal my wind.  


April 4, Tuesday
North Atlantic Ocean

0715  We have now been sailing continuously for twenty-four hours.  Sheet to tiller is still steering at about four knots on a close reach a bit high of the rhumb line.  The farther north, the more likely the doldrums are behind us.  I really am beginning to believe we have broken through to the northeast trades.

That cloud last night did vanish with the sun.


1200
01º40’N    36º00’W
day’s run   94 miles   COG   300º   SOG  4.3
ST. Lucia    1646  miles   296º
week’s run  456

Sunny, but two bands of rain have passed through.  I reefed the mainsail just before the last one reached us.  We continue sheet to tiller with reefed main and partially furled jib.  I may let out more jib soon.

GANNET has just completed her slowest week’s run at sea by far.  Only 456 miles.  Her previous slowest was the first week out out of Darwin of 678 miles.  It has not been joyful.

1630  GANNET has wet decks.  12 to 14 knot wind is just aft of the beam.  Three to five foot waves are slapping the hull and coming on board.  The forward hatch is closed and the companionway slid back, though the slat is not in place.  I’ve tried to stand in the companionway from time to time, but spray gets me within a minute or two.  No complaint.  We are sailing and I have had more than enough of being becalmed.


April 5, Wednesday
North Atlantic Ocean

0930  A lovely morning, but—

I was up several times last night adjusting the steering.  A line of rain with 20+ knot wind came through at midnight.  I added a shock cord and moved the others closer to the tiller.  When the rain and wind passed, I had to move them back.  Other adjustments as well.  It goes with sheet to tiller and varying wind.

The ‘buts’ about this morning are a tear in the mainsail when I went to unreef it and the Solarboost not passing on charging.  I have no idea why it works properly one day and then not the next.  I moved the solar panel wires to the solid state charger and the battery charge has increased from 12.6 to 13.0.

I lowered the mainsail and have the Pelagic steering under jib alone.  I repaired the six inch long tear at the leech near the foot of the sail with sail repair tape glued with Dr. Sails epoxy.  It is presently curing.  According to the documentation it reaches full strength in twenty minutes.  I moved the in boom reef line that was at the second reef down to the first.  When I re-raise the sail I’ll leave that first reef in for a while to give the repair more time to cure.  It would not in fact make much difference in the duration of this passage if I set the main with a reef the rest of the way.

The wind is only five or six knots, so I am able to sail with both hatches open.  Still hot and sweaty.

1000  The repair seems strong.  Nevertheless I’ve raised the main with a reef.  We are back to sheet to tiller steering.

1200  
02º37’N    37º27’W
day’s run   105 miles    COG  304º    SOG   4.7
St. Lucia   1542 miles   297º

Continue with reefed main and full jib.  Sheet to tiller.  5 or at most 6 knots wind.

New time zone, GMT -3, in a few miles.  Only one more to go.  I’ll switch ship’s time now.  The next day’s run will be 25 hours.

1700  A band of rain an hour ago gave us a wild ride for a few minutes.  I saw it approaching and added a shock cord to the tiller.  Nevertheless it rounded us up and heeled us over and moved us, briefly, at 11.2 knots.  What I was concerned about was when the partially furled jib pulled the tiller hard over and turned us downwind toward a possible gybe.  It didn't happen and the wind eased, as I expected, in a few minutes.  

The strongest wind is on the forward edge of these lines of rain.  On the trailing edge is lighter wind and GANNET has been flopping her way at 3 to 4 knots ever since.  The sky is almost completely overcast.  Some blue to the south.  I stood in the companionway, sipping a tequila and tonic and listening to the soundtrack of THE MISSION, a movie I should watch again, in light rain—it’s fresh water—I bathed in salt earlier.  

I raised the full main.  The repair seems solid.  The sheet to tiller is balanced for this very light wind and is problematic for the night.

1745  Some freeze dry meals are better with air temperature water than others.  Tonight’s AlpineAire’s Leonardo de Fettuccini tastes fine, but was very crunchy.


April 6, Thursday
North Atlantic Ocean

0830  A band of cloud and rain has been lingering just north and east of us for the past two hours.  I added a shock cord to the tiller, eased the mainsheet and took a couple of furls in the jib, but nothing much has happened.  We do have slightly more wind than the recently customary five knots.  Perhaps eight or nine and GANNET is sailing at five and six, even a rare seven, rather than four.

A band of rain passed at 0200.  I only became aware of it after it had reached us.  The companionway was open for ventilation.  There was no substantial increase in wind, but I remained up for a half hour watching to be certain that I didn’t need to readjust the steering. 

1200
03º31’N   038º56’W
day’s run  105 miles    COG  294º    SOG   4.1
St. Lucia   1439 miles   296º

A threateningly dramatic cloud bank to the north and west of us.  Towering thunderheads that must have strong wind and rain.  I hope they stay ahead of us.  

GANNET is sailing under full jib and main in bright sunlight again at 4 knots in 5 knots of wind, almost constantly passing sea weed floating on the surface. From time to time I hear a sound like a piece of paper being torn.  It is a flight of flying fish taking off as the monstrous-to-them GANNET approaches.

1540  The clouds to the north have dissipated.

GANNET flops and crashes on at 4 knots.

1820  Odd, almost complete cloud cover at different levels at sunset that I don’t understand.  The wind has backed and is slightly west of north so that we are sailing west, low of the rhumb line.  I could fix this, but don't expect it will last.  We are headed toward the mouths of the Amazon.  Maybe I’ll sail up it instead of going to St. Lucia.

1850  I couldn’t stand heading off south of west any longer and, though I would rather not hear the tiller pilot tonight, I engaged the Pelagic and have brought us back close to the rhumb line at 6 and 7 knots.  If it were daylight I could probably balance her out with sheet to tiller or by tying the tiller down.  It is a pleasure to feel the little boat sailing well for a change.

1930  This is so great:  really sailing again.  As I expected the wind has veered and we are on a beam reach on the rhumb line, still making 6 and 7 knots in not much more wind than that.  GANNET is alive and so am I.  First quarter moon visible through haze overhead.  


April 7, Friday
North Atlantic Ocean

0710  The sky I didn't understand explained itself at 2200 when the wind abruptly veered east, increased to 20-30 knots, and heavy rain began to fall.  Despite the Pelagic’s efforts, GANNET with sails trimmed for a close reach headed north.  Not wanting a fresh water shower at that time of night, I struggled into my foul weather gear and went on deck and lowered the mainsail and retrimmed the jib to a broad reach.  By the time I went back below the rain and wind had decreased.  I left the jib up and the Pelagic steering us on course.  Then the rain and wind died for the rest of the night.  When I woke at 0600 the bow was pointed toward St. Lucia and the jib was hanging limp.

Wind returned at 0630 and we are now again sailing at 4 knots on course for St. Lucia.  Sky overcast.  We may get more rain.  Foul weather gear drying in cockpit.

1200
04º15’N  40º03’W
day’s run  80 miles     COG  298º  SOG  1.8
St. Lucia  1359 miles    296º

Sea glassy.  Sails up.  Pelagic keeping bow pointed in right direction.   Clouds around.  Very discouraging. 

1910  A beautiful evening.  I needed it.  I have found beauty at sea that I have not found elsewhere and which I don’t know how I can live without if I stop making ocean passages.  Without wind GANNET is a bird with a broken wing.

I’ve been on deck or in the companionway for most of the past two hours.  Sitting before sunset listening to Leonard Cohen and sipping a gin and tonic, and then after a dinner of ‘beef and broccoli stir fry’—Who thinks up these names?  It was never going to be stir fried and mine wasn’t even heated—standing in the companionway sipping red wine beneath a waxing gibbous moon and an evening star that I assume is Venus.  Just before sunset I shifted to sheet to tiller steering though I left the Pelagic on deck in case the wind dies.  Tonight there is no threat of strong wind.

I stop and listen.  Water gurgles past GANNET’s hull.  The jib sheet creaks through a block.  A thump as the mainsail lifts and drops the boom.  GANNET is heeled 5º to port.

We have roughly 1350 miles to go.  I think Carol is going to fly to St. Lucia two weeks from tomorrow.  I hope I am there to meet her.  In my mind this has been a passage toward Carol.


April 8, Saturday
North Atlantic Ocean

0810  I switched to sheet to tiller steering at sunset last evening which carried us through a slow night.  I had to adjust the steering twice.  Dawn revealed a large black cloud bank to the north and I re-engaged the Pelagic and partially furled the jib.  The rising sun melted the cloud and I will try to switch back to sheet to tiller soon.  We’re presently making 5 knots, but the wind is again weakening.

1200
04º52’N    041º30’W
day’s run  95 miles    COG  300º   SOG  4.7
St. Lucia  1265 miles    296º

Mostly sunny. Some clouds around the horizon.  Small patches of rain passed both north and south of us this morning.  Wind deceased, then increased to 7-8 knots and I’ve gone back to sheet to tiller.  

1900  Spectacular cloud formations with rain north and south of us at sunset.  

When the rain formations neared us in mid-afternoon I couldn’t keep GANNET balanced on course and re-engaged the Pelagic.  I had left the tiller arm in place in the cockpit, so this was easy to do.  The wind was 10-12 knots and GANNET sailed at six, seven and sometimes eight knots on a close reach.  Once the ETA provided by iSailor was 6 days and a few hours and we have more than 1200 miles to go.  Beautiful after dawdling along.  

These clouds are heat machines and they lose their power with the setting sun.  We continue sailing well, but the clouds have lost their billowing thunderheads and are diffused moonlit shadows.


April 9, Sunday
North Atlantic Ocean

0800  The Pelagic steered us though a rough night.  The wind backed to the north until GANNET was almost close-hauled.  We pounded into and off some waves, heeled 20º which is considerably more than we’ve been heeled in a long time.  By dawn the wind had veered and I was able to go to sheet to tiller on a beam reach with the jib half furled.  We are presently sailing toward a cloud bank that seems stationary in front of us.

1030  On deck to put reef in main and deeply furl jib.  Pelagic was being overpowered.  Clouds all around.  Unfortunately wind has backed to the north again and we are almost close-hauled.  Taking a lot of water over the bow.  Some finding its way aft.  Spray hood up and companionway slid aft but slat not in.  Very hot and stuffy in Great Cabin.  Sweat is rolling down my face just sitting here typing.

1200
05º48’N   43º23’W
day’s run  126 miles    COG   293º   SOG  6.3
St. Lucia   1138 miles    296º

Conditions the same.  About 20 knots of wind.  GANNET on close reach.  Heeled 15º-20º.  Taking less water over deck since reducing sail.  Cabin hot.  I slide the companionway back from time to time to let some cooler air.  Mouths of the Amazon abeam 476 miles.

1530  Wind has backed to the northeast and is now again on the beam.  So are some pretty steep waves, perhaps 6-8’.  Not as much water coming on board, unless one of those waves does.  Complete low cloud cover, but I don't see any rain.  I’ve lowered the spray hood.  Another of the cheap and worthless toggles has broken.

I finally got my teeth brushed.  Not shaving today.

1630  I put on foul weather gear and opened the companionway to consider whether to lower the mainsail and continue under partially furled jib alone.  I found that it is raining.  GANNET is making her way across the waves well, if not completely comfortably, and this is getting miles done, something which we haven’t been doing recently.  We’ve averaged six knots since noon.  So I came back below and will consider the situation again later.  Spray hood back up.

I haven’t mentioned the barometer on this passage because it has hardly moved.  It is down 2 millebars since this morning.

1800  A gray world.  Complete low cloud cover, but wind moderating.  This was never a storm, just a wave of tropical moisture.  The maximum wind was not more than twenty knots. 

While waiting for my evening feast of Shepherds Potato Stew with Beef to soak, I put on my foul weather pants and went on deck to see if I could switch to sheet to tiller steering.  I could and did, though conditions are not stable and I may soon have to switch back.

April 10, Monday
North Atlantic Ocean

0700  Sheet to tiller saw us through the night with my getting up a couple of times to make adjustments.
The wind has backed north again and lessened to around 10 knots and we are sailing low of the rhumb line at about 5 knots.  Sunny directly overhead.  An expanding cloud bank to the east.

1200
06º25’N     045º16’W
day’s run  118 miles   COG  276º    SOG  4.6
St. Lucia   1022 miles    296º

Backlit clouds at dawn often look more sinister than they are.  That was the case this morning.  The day is sunny, hot and almost cloudless.  Wind of ten knots from the north is forcing us west.  I hope it veers northeast soon.  Barometer back up three millebars.

We continue with sheet to tiller and a reef in the main and partially furled jib.  I’ve considered unreefing the main, but we are already taking water on board.  I’ve tried to leave the forward hatch cracked, but can’t.  Serious water comes below.

We will pass the less than 1,000 miles to go this afternoon.

I was calculating how many Raymarine tiller pilots have died since leaving San Diego and believe the number is ten, plus an old Autohelm that came with GANNET.  I left San Diego with three Raymarines and the Autohelm and none was working when I reached New Zealand.  One of the Raymarines had been repaired and so failed twice, making four Raymaine failures.  I left New Zealand with four Raymarines and reached Durban with one working.  I left Durban with four Raymarines and only one is still working.  This is not ten different units.  Several have been repaired under warranty and died multiple times.

The other great failure is the Aurinco solar panels.  I left San Diego with six on the deck.  They all died, as have all three replacements.

1300 Full mainsail set which doesn’t seem to have much improved our speed.

A bucket full of water sponged from the bilge.

1710  999 miles to go.

A nice day even though I couldn’t leave the forward hatch open.  We have only averaged 4.5 knots since noon, but GANNET appears to me to be sailing 5.5 and 6. 

I opened my last can of tonic tonight.  There is one more drink in the gin bottle and three or possibly four of tequila.  There are four pours of Laphroaig.  And there is something left in two boxes of wine, one white, one red.  I will have some Laphroaig tonight for having less than a thousand miles to go.  I estimated this passage would take a month, which will be in four more days.  I would have been good for a month.

I am typing sitting on the starboard pipe berth.  I look up from the keyboard and down at the passing ocean 4’ or 5’ feet below me.  It is passing at 6 knots no matter what the apps say we are making.

1840  I stand briefly in the companionway.  Full moon rising astern.  GANNET slashing across waves. Sheet to tiller steering is almost magical.  Balance the tiller between invisible forces, elastic to leeward, jib sheet to windward, adjust the mainsheet, and the little boat sails herself beautifully.  It is like shooting an arrow that goes hundreds of miles.

I cannot stand long in the companionway without taking a wave.  I am tired.  I am dirty.  I want a long, hot shower, several cold drinks, fresh hot food and Carol.  I have been frustrated by lack of wind.  But I look around in the dying light and wonder how I can ever live without this. 


April 11, Tuesday
North Atlantic Ocean

0730  Fine sailing continues.  We averaged better than 6 knots over night and continue to be making 6 and 7 on a beam reach.  The chartplotting apps now verify our speed.  Why we were only making good 4.5 for a while last evening I do not know.  Perhaps a vagrant counter current.  

I eased the main sheet this morning to reduce weather helm and may put a reef back in after a while to reduce angle of heel.  I’m carefully wedged in with cushions at Central.  Four to soften hard edges in addition to the Sportaseat.

1000  Cloudless, hazy blue sky.

The Great Cabin is uncomfortably hot, so I decided to use one of my Caframo fans.  I brought two back with me to Durban, replacements for ones that had died earlier.  They are useful when they work, operating for more than 100 hours on 4 D cell batteries, but too cheaply made.  I took one from its waterproof bag, turned it on and the blades immediately flew off.  I took the other one from its waterproof bag and it is sending a cooling stream of air onto me, making Central more comfortable.

1200
07º17’N   47º28’W
day’s run   141 miles    COG   300º    SOG  6.6
week’s run   770
St. Lucia   882 miles    297º

Four weeks out today and at last a respectable day’s run.  Only 3 miles short of a 6 knot average.  Week’s run mediocre, but improved these past three days. 

1800  GANNET sailing well, averaging 6.5 knots since noon, though the wind has decreased slightly.  I’ve been able to stand in the companionway without taking a wave.

A disaster:  my very last gin and tonic spilled and was almost completely lost.  

If the wind holds, and being trade wind it might, we may arrive in a week.

I think that we have passed beyond Brazil and that French Guyana is now 275 miles to port.

Not a tragedy, but irritating is that the second Caframo fan died.  These have been around for years.  They used to work, but the last four I’ve  bought have all died almost instantly.  Probably changed to cheaper suppliers.  Manufacturers of such crap should be imprisoned.

Tonight’s uncooked freeze dry:  Venison Casarecce with White Wine Sauce.

In the unlikely event that it is ever important to you, Mountain House Chicken and Rice is the best unheated freeze dry. 


April 12, Wednesday
North Atlantic Ocean

0700 The wind veered east during the night.  At midnight we had covered 80 miles since noon and were on the way to at least a 150 mile day.  With the wind further aft our speed has dropped.  I’ve adjusted the steering by easing one of the shock cords one loop and easing the main sheet so we are more on a broad than beam reach, but we are still sailing high of the rhumb line.  One result of all this is that I can stand in the companionway without taking a wave and can leave the sliding part of the hatch open to provide better ventilation in the Great Cabin.

1200
08º40’N    49º31’W
day’s run  151  miles    COG 294º   SOG  5.5
St. Lucia    736 miles    295º

Sunny, hazy sky.  Lighter wind continues.  I’m having difficulty getting GANNET to sail the rhumb line.  The balance is either too high or too low.  

1700  GANNET has now sailed halfway around the world with only two stops.

In Darwin she was anchored in Fannie Bay at about 131ºE.  We are presently near 50ºW.  181º of longitude.    The only stops:  Durban and St. Helena.  I didn’t plan this, it just happened, in part because the weather along the South African coast never settled this year and so I went to sea and stuck it out.  We still have about 11º of longitude and 5º of latitude to go.

The wind remains lighter than it has been.  We’ve averaged 5 knots since noon.  I’m about to go on deck with one of my few remaining tumblers of tequila and listen to music before choosing this evenings uncooked freeze dry feast.


April 13, Thursday
North Atlantic Ocean

0800  A few clouds around this morning.  A patch of rain to the south.  GANNET is taking enough water over the bow so I can’t open the forward hatch.  I may switch to the Pelagic and jib alone.

We have caught the sun and it is now south of us, though by less than a degree.

We are 275 miles off the coast of Surinam.

I’ve changed the waypoint for St. Lucia from the south end of the island to the north.  I intent to enter at Rodney Bay which is on the west side of the island only a few miles from the north end.  It makes more sense to sail around from the north, rather than up the leeward side where there may be less consistent wind.  St. Lucia is about twenty nautical miles long.  At this distance the difference between the old and new waypoints is only seven miles.

1200
09º36’N    51º11W
day’s run   114     COG   297º   SOG   4.2
St. Lucia   630 miles    296º

I went to tiller pilot and jib alone an hour ago.  We were sailing too high and too wet under sheet to tiller.  Unfortunately our speed has dropped to 4 knots.  I may try raising the main again with a reef.

Before lowering the main we had an excessive amount of weather helm.  I leaned over the side to check the rudder and found a mass of sea weed caught on its forward edge.  I took the tiller, swung GANNET around, backed the jib and hove to.  When after a minute or two, I turned us back on course, the weed had fallen away.


April 14, Friday
North Atlantic Ocean

0900  Hazy low clouds with a few sprinkles of rain.

GANNET sailed so smoothly during the night that I thought she had slowed and expected to make some change when I woke this morning.  But she hadn’t.  The wind has backed toward the north bringing it closer to the beam and she is making 5.5+ knots under jib alone.  Often more than 6 and that is good enough.  So we continue under full jib and with a tiller pilot steering.  

I am using the last Raymarine.  I was curious to see if it is still working.  This is the one Carol gave me last Christmas and is quieter than the others.  Unobtrusive.  

In mitigation Raymarine tiller pilots are satisfactory for the way 99.99% (carry the 9s as far as you want) of boats are used.  While riding to shore on the ferry at St. Helena another sailor asked me about self-steering and I mentioned the Raymarines.  He commented that he had used an Autohelm, which is a company Raymarine bought, for seventeen years without a problem.  This was a failure of imagination.  He was from Belgium and considering the short distances and short sailing season, it is likely that he sailed less in those seventeen years than I have in the past two months.  So Raymarines are fine for ‘normal’ use.  Obviously they are not built to steer a boat like GANNET across oceans.

We have about 500 miles to go.  I’m not sure the Solbian panels can provide enough charging to use a tiller pilot the entire distance.

1200
10º40’N    53º02’W
day’s run  127 miles    COG  297º   SOG   5.9
St. Lucia   504 miles   295º

We have crossed into a new time zone, GMT -4.  I’ll change ship’s time.  Tomorrow’s run will be 25 hours.

We are also a month out of St. Helena.  I had thought that was how long this passage would take, but we were slowed more in the doldrums than I expected.  

I have ample supplies of everything but wine and spirits.  I’m one bottle short.  Tonight I’ll have the last pour of tequila and finish the slight remnant of a box of white wine.  That will leave only  a third of a bottle of Laphroaig.  I might have one drink of it, but the rest to be saved to celebrate arrival.

GANNET sails on under full jib with tiller pilot steering under hazy clouds and sunshine.  Hatches open.

1830  Early sunset entering a new time zone.  GANNET has now sailed twenty time zones.  Four to go, though only one more this year.

Two waves poured below today.  One though the companionway, one through the forward hatch.  A small enough price to pay, I suppose, for the comfort of having better ventilation.

I finished the last of the tequila while standing in the companionway at sunset and the last of the boxed wine with uncooked freeze dry sausage and pasta for dinner.

GANNET sails on.  Four or five more days.


April 15, Saturday
North Atlantic Ocean

0615  Back to sheet to tiller steering after first light to give tiller pilot a rest and the batteries opportunity to charge though they are not low.  12.5 volts at dawn this morning.  I think 12.6 yesterday.  Full main and partially furled jib.  Not sure if I will be able to open the forward hatch.  May have to endure heat today.

1200 
11º44’N    055º06’W
day’s run  137 miles       COG  288º    SOG  6.2
St. Lucia     367 miles      393º

Lovely day.  We continue with sheet to tiller, full main partially furled jib, making about 6 knots.  So far I’ve been able to leave the forward hatch open without taking a wave.

1700  A day of a hazy sky and pleasant sailing.  We took a little spray through the forward hatch, but I left it open and the Great Cabin is only 83ºF/28ºC.  Unless conditions change we’ll continue under sheet to tiller tonight.

Apple’s lightning charging cables don’t like being at sea.  I left Durban with four and only have one still working.  None have gotten wet.  Perhaps the salt air corrodes them.

I had re-enforcing patches sewn onto the pipe berths where I step on them coming down below.  The patch on the starboard berth, on which I have been primarily sleeping on this passage, is tearing.   I could repair it with duct tape, but that would be unattractive.  I think it will last the passage. 

Time for music sans libation.


April 16, Sunday
North Atlantic Ocean

0710  An easy night.  GANNET continues to sail under full main and partially furled jib, sheet to tiller steering at 5.5 to 6 knots.  We have 260 miles to go to the waypoint off the north end of St. Lucia.  Tomorrow we should see Barbados, which is a hundred miles closer.

1200
12º42’N   057º09’W
day’s run  134 miles    COG  292º    SOG  6.1
St. Lucia   233 miles    292º

I was prepared to go to tiller pilot steering this morning, but sheet to tiller is getting it done, so no need yet to change.  Hazy sky.  Ten knots of wind just aft of the beam.  Three and four foot waves not coming on board.  Both hatches open.  If conditions remain the same for forty-eight hours—and in trade winds they may—we’re there.  I hope so.   A long hot shower.  Clean clothes.  A cold drink or three.  And something other than uncooked freeze dry food.  And Carol on Saturday.

1730  Switched to tiller pilot a half hour ago.  The wind has veered to the east and we were sailing 325º, far too high.  Now close to rhumb line on broad reach.  Full jib and main.  202 miles to go.

Very hazy at sunset.  The sky nacreous.  Like being inside an oyster.

1940  I’ve gone back to sheet to tiller.  The wind angle is so deep that with the tiller pilot I was going to have to lower the main and sail under jib alone, which would be peaceful but slow and I want to keep moving tonight as well as possible, even if sailing high of the rhumb line.    

2345  Jib repeatedly being blanketed by main and explosively refilling, shaking boat and rig.  Lowered main.  Tiller pilot steering with jib alone.  SOG 4.3.  Arrival Tuesday questionable.  I tell myself one more night doesn’t matter, and it doesn’t, but I’d like to get in.


April 17, Monday
North Atlantic Ocean

0530  Wind veered north.  Mainsail back up first thing this morning.  Making 5-7 knots on rhumb line.  144 miles to go.

1200
13º44’N   59º06’W
day’s run  131 miles    COG   293º   SOG  5.9
St. Lucia  105 miles     282º

Fine sailing.  GANNET is catching some waves and taking off at 9+ knots.  I no longer have the Velocitek to read the true speed.   Although we are sailing too high, the jib is still sometimes being blanketed by the main and collapsing and filling.  I’ll lower the main sometime this afternoon.  Perhaps soon.

We’re 39 miles from Barbados and I doubt will see the island.  I had expected to pass closer, but the wind angle has forced us north.

I’m starting to prepare for the shore.  I moved everything off the port pipe berth and brought the Torqeedo battery out.  It read 99% charged.  It never reads 100% any longer, but I charged it for a half hour anyway.

It is possible to anchor at Rodney Bay, but I would rather go into the marina.  Carol has made hotel reservations for several nights and thefts have been reported from anchored boats.  Although GANNET is probably not an inviting target, particularly if a thief actually gets below deck, I’d rather not leave her unattended at anchor or on a mooring.

1440  Mainsail down.  Wind veered east coming over stern so the main was constantly blanketing the jib.  We’re still making 5 knots with 90 miles to go to the waypoint off the north end of the island.  If we arrive in the afternoon I might anchor and not try to clear with officials or obtain space in the marina until Wednesday morning.  Being at anchor has its appeal,   though cold drinks and fresh food do, too.

1800  74 miles to go.  I hope we keep moving through the night.


April 18, Tuesday
North Atlantic Ocean

0550  An unpleasant night from midnight on.  The wind went light and veered south of east.  Small waves persisted from the northeast, providing a jerky, rolling to windward motion.  At 0300 I gybed the jib to starboard.  St. Lucia should be 24 miles away, but I cannot yet see it.  The sun is just above the horizon and the island may be hidden in clouds to the west.  We are not as close as I had hoped to be at dawn.   A rain cloud behind us.

Twice went I stood in the companionway last night a medium size brown bird was sitting on deck.  The first time beside the port cockpit winch, only a few inches from me.  He didn’t move until I poked him with the winch handle.  He returned later and was sitting on the starboard side.  I poked him again and he flew off not to return.

0700  From the wind display I thought the wind angle would allow me to raise the main without it blanketing the jib.  Well, not quite.  The main is up, but the jib is being blanketed and refilling, despite my changing course 10º to port.  However our speed has gone from 4 to 5 and 6, so I’m going to live with it for a while.

I thought I saw the island, but can’t now.

0800  Land is in sight.  14 miles distant.  Although we are still  in deep water, waves are steeper.  Lots of low clouds.  Rain seems to be passing to the north of us.

I’ve moved fenders and dock lines from where they were stowed aft for the passage to the v-berth.  Only the outboard bracket and Torqeedo remain to be moved forward and they can wait until we are in smoother water in the lee of the island.

0830  Mainsail down.  The rolling and slamming were too much.  Gybed to starboard broad reach.  Making 5 knots under jib alone.

1300  In slip c-9 Rodney Bay Marina.  
14º04’N   060º57’W
day’s run  115 miles
week’s run  909 miles
St. Helena to St. Lucia     3859 miles

As we neared St. Lucia, the waves increased in the shallower water to 5’ and 6’ and I caught a glimpse of color ahead.  There were four small open fishing boats.  I saw some floats and took the helm to steer GANNET wide of them.  Two young men on the nearest boat smiled, waved and shouted something I could not hear.

A half mile further and we came into the partial lee of the island.  I attached dock lines, fenders and slipped the outboard bracket into its slot in the stern.  

Past the headland that marks the northern side of Rodney Bay I expected less wind and more protected water but the wind increased and white-caps were everywhere.  I furled the jib down to and managed to fit the Torqeedo while the tiller pilot steered.  I pressed the button and the Torqeedo started.  I put it in neutral.  Then I came about and tacked north.  We were too far out to power in.  Fifteen or twenty boats were anchored near the shore of the mile wide bay.  

After trying several times, I got Rodney Bay Marina on the VHF and was told I could proceed to slip C9.  I was uncertain the Torqeedo could power us very far against the wind and had trouble locating the marina’s narrow entrance channel.  I had my iPhone in the cockpit and tapped in a waypoint at the channel, then a go to and located it.

After tacking twice more we were within a few hundred yards of the entrance and I furled the jib and began to power slowly in.  A few minutes later I glanced back and the Torqeedo showed 94% remaining battery charge.  Another few minutes and we were fifty yards from the entrance, I glanced back and the charge was 4%.  I thought I had misread.  The Torqeedo died and I knew I hadn’t.

We were thirty or forty yards from the nearest anchored boats.  I unfurled a bit of jib, engaged the tiller pilot, and dove below where I scrambled over all the bags and sacks on the v-berth to retrieve the anchor and rode bag from the bow.  Opened forward hatch.  Went out the companionway.  Forward.  Pulled anchor and rode on deck.  Tied end of rode to cleat.  Flaked down 20’ of chain and 70’ of line on deck.  Tied off line to starboard bow cleat, the side on which the roller is fitted.  We were in 25’-30’ of water.  Went aft and sailed us to where we could anchor clear of the other boats.  Brought the bow to the wind.  Furled the jib.  Went forward and released the Spade anchor.

As I have said before, normally I would prefer to be at anchor, but with Carol arriving, I wanted to be in the marina.  I was going to call them on the VHF and ask if a tow were possible, when a local boat selling produce and, inexplicably flying two big Canadian flags came alongside.  The man asked how I was doing.  I said I was doing well until my outboard died and would he tow me into the marina.  He was happy to do so for $150 Eastern Caribbean, about $55 US.  I could have bargained, but didn’t.

So GANNET did the last half mile of this passage   under power not her own.  The direction was back to the east, so we didn’t gain distance.  She docked safely.

Passage over.