Passage to Barbados: Day 1

Day 1: 9 November 2016

After 18 months of working towards the Atlantic Ocean crossing, we finished all of the major items on our “to-do” list about 2 hours before the Farewell Party at Marina Mindelo in Cape Verde. We are not sure if that is just luck or attentive project management, but we are sure that it was the result of many, many hours of diligent and determined efforts by all members of the Siegel family!

Departure day dawned early with frantic internet scans to see who won the US Presidential election. Upon hearing of the results, Dorian asked if we were going to arrive back in Canada “before the wall was finished being built.” We weren’t sure which border he was referring to, but we assured him that everything would be okay.

The last few moments of time onshore were spent at the bakery picking up a few extra loaves of fresh bread (are 10 loaves enough?) and at the marina cafe spending the last bits of our local currency, escudos, while enjoying heaps of their amazing banana and Nutella crepes. The docks were abuzz with excitement as 33 boats in the Barbados 50 rally were preparing for departure. We said our final goodbyes and gave the many see-you-in-Barbados hugs to friends before jumping on Laridae and slipping the dock lines around 10 am.

Our exit from the harbour was swift as we were able to turn off the engine immediately and enjoy sailing downwind in the São Vicente Canal (the channel between São Vicente and Santo Antão). The channel funnelled the typical 15-20 knot trade winds into a brisk 25-30 knot hoot that allowed us to quickly clear the islands.

Other than the active sail handling exercises, we had a mellow Day 1 as we all attempted to work into our passage routines. The kids took a nap during the day, Angela cooked a delicious vegetable and ginger fried rice, and the evening concluded with a snuggled-up family reading from Harry Potter (book 3). Fortunately for all, everyone’s sea legs came quickly and we were all feeling well enough to enjoy “Cocktail Hour” (consisting of mocktails!) and a great dinner.

However, there was no way to escape the wind shadow and disruptions that the two large (and tall!) islands have on the steady trade winds. After blasting out of the São Vicente Canal with NE winds, we were met with calm winds and very confused seas. A short while later, we picked up about 15 knots of winds from the north for about 30 minutes, then the winds went calm again before picking up from the south at 15 knots. This lasted, again, for about 30 minutes before another period of calm and then another wind shift to NE winds, and then SE, and then NE again! We did a lot of gybes during this period.

The long extent of oscillating winds in the lee of the islands is (we think) caused by Von Karmen Vortices. This is the same reason that flags wave on a flag pole. You should Google it (we can’t at sea!). Eventually, about 60 miles away from the island (3 diameters for the physical oceanographers), the NE trade winds finally kicked in with a steady 20 knots. At dawn on Day 2, we set the downwind sails (genoa poled out to windward, staysail poled out to leeward) and started the downwind run to Barbados.

The total straight-line distance from Mindelo to Barbados is 2020 miles. This is a strategic departure location because it means that, just a few hours after departure, we were able to celebrate the important milestone of “only 1999 miles left!” The 24-hour total run was 130 miles.

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