Passage to Barbados: Day 15

Day 15: 23 November 2016

Most of our last full day at sea was spent contemplating our arrival the next morning. After crossing so many miles, over so many days, it was a bit surreal to understand that land might (should!) appear over the horizon and that we would be in a new continent, new island group, and with new people.

After a morning of slalom-skiing around rain clouds with shifty winds, the winds finally settled down and we began our final run to Barbados. We slowed down a little, trying to average about 5 knots, so that we could arrive near the island at sun rise the following morning (concluding our 15th day at sea).

The first confirmation that we received that we were generally in the right area of Barbados was a hail on the VHF radio by a local fisherman. He was delighted to see another boat nearby and gave us a very friendly welcome to Barbados! It was fun to chat with the fisherman in English, and his cheerful Bajan accent and overly friendly attitude was a wonderful hint to the fun times we hoped would be ahead.

As dusk set, we were about 60 miles away from Barbados. When darkness came, and our eyes adjusted to the light, we were able to see a faint glow of light in the clouds ahead of us. This was the first true sign that our GPS’s had worked and we had found land!

At around 8 AM the next morning (24 Nov), we pulled around the south side of the islands, avoiding the shoals and swift currents. Shortly thereafter, we received a lovely greeting by a welcome committee on pontoon boat sent from the Barbados 50 rally. They escorted us into the customs/immigration dock and took our dock lines. We had officially crossed the Atlantic Ocean, and we had much to be thankful for on the morning of US Thanksgiving!

B50-arrival- Laridae.jpg

Laridae Arrival in Barbados (Photo Credit: Cornell Sailing)

Passage to Barbados: Day 14

Day 14: 22 November 2016

The rain and crazy wind shifts from the previous night continued into the morning of Day 14. The trend in the weather (comical for some, less so for others) was for Eric’s night watch to get the squalls, and Robyn’s night watch to get the settled weather. This finally changed! As Robyn came on watch at 10 AM, the weather decided to throw her more confused wind patterns, and plenty of rain.

The prevailing Easterly winds turned to come from the South, and then the Southwest. With our downwind running sails up, we were forced to follow the wind shift, and, for a while, we were sailing back towards Cape Verde! We released the spinnaker pole from the genoa, hoisted the mainsail, gybed over, sheeted in and began to close-reach back towards the Northeast – and fortunately in the general direction of Barbados!

Along with the crazy wind shifts came the rain. Buckets-full dumped on the deck and on the crew (Robyn and Angela). There was enough rain (freshwater shall not be wasted!) that the shampoo came out and the crew took advantage of the plentiful, and rather warm, rain.

While most of the passage had been text-book perfect, we had the distinct feeling that the ocean was going to make us work for our safe arrival to Barbados. We were up for the challenge and worked together to get the boat moving away from the squall line and back towards clearer skies and more consistent winds. It took us several hours to work our way out of the rain and fluky winds, but finally we found the trade winds again and started to make good tracks towards Barbados.

With less than 200 miles remaining, the kids started a massive home-schooling-cram-session. They decided that they wanted to finish all of their November work before they arrived in Barbados, so that they could have the remainder of the month to explore the island. This meant that they would need to do double-quantities each day. They really pulled together, focused (most of the challenge of our homeschooling) and got to work!

The daily run was 123 miles. We anticipate arriving in Barbados mid-day on Thursday, 24 November. Barbados is on the same time zone as Halifax, Nova Scotia (1 hour later than US Eastern Time).

Passage to Barbados: Day 13

Day 13: 21 November 2016

Because the winds were so consistent, still about 18-20 knots from the East, we spent the day focused on food and games. Angela and the kids made up Boat Bingo cards and prizes. The prizes were Marzipan figures of marine life (turtles, sea horses, crabs, etc) that the kids made themselves from a sheet of Marzipan. Angela laid down plastic wrap on the table, asked the kids to wash their hands three times (!), and let them have fun with food.

Meanwhile, Angela prepared the best homemade pizza that has ever been served on Laridae or enjoyed in the mid-Atlantic. The crust was made from scratch and topped with tomato paste, real mozzarella cheese, green olives, and fire roasted red peppers. It was enjoyed by all and there were no leftovers.

We enjoyed playing Boat Bingo in the cockpit during cocktail hour. Prizes were awarded for a variety of reasons (we don’t take Boat Bingo too seriously).

The evening was concluded with another outstanding meal prepared by Chef Angela – Indian Curry. This curry was not from cans; Angela prepared it from scratch with a variety of fresh ingredients — very impressive, considering we have been away from the produce market for 13 days!

Overnight, the pleasant sailing slowly came to an end as we moved into a region of more active squalls. The winds within the squall were not too intense; sometimes increasing from about 20 knots to 25 knots. However, the change of direction was surprising. The wind would quickly change over 90 degrees! Our steady Easterly winds would sometimes veer to come from the SW. If you reviewed our tracker map (on the Find Us! section of our website), you may see some squiggly steering as we kept the boat going through the variable conditions. Our normal night watch actives, watching the stars and listening to podcasts, was interrupted by the need to actually sail the boat.

Despite the crazy end to the day, we managed a decent daily run of 142 miles. Now that we are within about 250 miles of Barbados, we are hoping to arrive mid-day on Thursday, 24 November (American Thanksgiving!).

Passage to Cape Verde: Day 6

Day 6: 17 October 2016

After sailing much of last night in slowly diminishing winds, we reluctantly turned the motor on at 0230 and started the final leg of the passage to the town of Mindelo, on the island of Sao Vicente, in the Cape Verde Island group. At dawn, we were again surrounded with glassy calm conditions.

Shortly after breakfast, we started seeing more flying fish. We have reported about seeing “loads” of flying fish on previous days, but now we really mean “LOADS” of flying fish. We would frequently see ten or more fish shoot out of the water ahead of the boat and fly in all directions trying to escape prey (or being run over!). The fish would be so close to the boat that we could make out the various colours in their shimmery skin. We would see big flying fish (maybe 25 cm long) and very small (baby?) flying fish (about 10 cm long). And then the dolphins came! They played in our bow wake for about ten minutes before journeying off to give another boat a post-breakfast show.

This was the first truly hot day of the passage. The sun was out in full force. The winds were about 5 knots from behind and we were motoring at about 5 knots, so there was no breeze over the deck or down below. The engine was like a hot furnace in the centre of the boat. It was about 30 deg C below with about 75% humidity – sticky and hot.

To beat the heat, we enjoyed cold foods; cereal with cold milk for breakfast and triple-decker club sandwiches (sliced chicken and cheese on the bottom layer, ripe avocado and crispy-fried chorizo on the top layer). We also served cold gazpacho soup – very refreshing! The cold, fruity cocktails were double-tall this afternoon!

The kids focused on a lot of school work so that they could spend more time exploring ashore upon arrival. Angela, creative as always with incredible teaching methods, designed a way to teach Dorian and Anneka’s math lessons with colourful artwork projects. They called the project “Art Math.” Angela was heard to exclaim “this is my kind of art”, and Anneka replied “this is my kind of math!”

At 1430 this afternoon, after 12 hours of motoring, we calculated that we could reach the shores of Mindelo at sunrise (17 hours later) if we were able to keep up an average speed of about 4 knots. Since we have been enjoying a 0.5 to 0.75 knot current in our favour, we only needed to keep a boat speed of about 3.5 knots. We knew that this was possible despite the light winds, so we very happily turned off the motor and begun our final (slow) sail to Mindelo. With the motor off and the winds crossing the deck and filtering below, we were relieved of some of the heat and excited with the prospect of making landfall the next morning.

At the time of writing, we are 23 miles from land and look forward to arriving shortly after breakfast tomorrow, making this 800 mile passage in about 6.5 days. The daily run for Day 3 was 117 miles (again).


Passage to Cape Verde: Day 5

Day 5: 16 October 2016

After starting the motor at 9 PM the previous night, we motored all through the night and emerged into glassy calm conditions at sunrise. Also emerging at sunrise were Anneka and Dorian to wish the on-watch crew (Eric) a happy birthday!

Somehow, during stolen moments when Eric was either on watch, or sleeping, the crew decorated the interior of the boat with bunting flags and a hung up a large handmade Happy Birthday poster. Chef Angela out did herself (again!) by making a pile of yummy crepes topped with homemade fresh apple jam.

We didn’t have any wind during the day, but the calm conditions allowed for a lot of flying fish sightings. Scared by the boat, or perhaps a hungry prey, the fish shot out of the water and flew for a hundred meters (or more!) across the calm sea. The kids truly thought that it was birds they were watching some of the time.

Facing a long day of motoring we arranged for a social swim call with the crew on Sameera just a few miles away from us. We agreed on a common waypoint and meeting time, and we both steamed towards the rendezvous spot. We met up at 2:30 PM and enjoyed swimming and bathing in the warm ocean waters (about 27 deg C). The crew on Sameera launched an inflatable swimming pool raft and lounged behind the back of their boat while some of their older kids swam to our boat for a visit.

Taking advantage of the calm conditions, and the additional kids on board, we decided this was a good opportunity to deploy the MetOcean SVP Iridium ocean drifting buoy. This buoy was kindly donated to Laridae by the manufacture (MetOcean Data in Halifax) as a scientific research and teaching tool. It has internal batteries, GPS, temperature sensor, and Iridium satellite communications so it can drift with the ocean currents, measure the ocean temperature, and report its speed, direction and position every one hour for several years. We are presently working on launching the real-time mapping page on our website, and we hope to provide a link to it shortly after we arrive in Cape Verde.

Just before pulling up the swim ladder and getting back underway, the crew of Sameera swam back to Laridae with a waterproof box containing a freshly backed German apple cake accompanied by a chorus of Happy Birthday songs. This was truly a special way to celebrate Eric’s 29th birthday (ok, so maybe time is counted differently while on long ocean passages), and we are sincerely thankful for the memorable experiences!

Shortly after we started motoring again towards Cape Verde, we were able to enjoy a very special cocktail hour with cold fruity drinks and warm birthday cake. As we were finishing the last sips, we were greeted by a showing of about five small dolphins playing in our bow wake. We have not been able to confirm the interpretation, but we think that their squeaks were also a happy birthday song, but possibly not in English or German.

We continued to motor until 9 PM when the wind filled in from the NE at a steady 10 knots. We happily turned off the motor after 24 hours and unfurled the sails. We are now making slow but again steady progress towards Cape Verde, and we are hopeful that the wind pressure will persist (although at the time of this writing, it has weakened to about 6 knots).

Our total run for Day 5 was 117 miles, and we are hopeful to arrive to Cape Verde about mid-day on the 18th of October.

A calm day in Biscay

Day three at sea dawned even more calm than the previous day. Just as forecast, we were in the middle of a high pressure system and the wind speed would be exactly zero. The trusty motor continued to carry us through the glassy seas towards Spain. Little did we know, but glassy seas in Biscay provides plenty of opportunity to sight whales! Just after breakfast, we passed a small family of whales basking at the surface. We haven’t found the field guide to properly identify them yet, but we think that they may be Finback Whales. They were probably about 40 feet long, grey, and had a small but pronounced fin towards the rear of their back. As we continued to motor across the Bay, we had more whale sightings, as well as distant sighings of whales breaching and blowing. We also saw numerous dolphins plying the waves.

The sun warmed the surface waters to 23.5 C and we stopped the engine at about noon for a swim call. We drifted slowing in the calm sea for about an hour as we took turns jumping off the stern deck, the stern rail, and the cabin top into the very clear, but very deep, water. We freaked out the kids a bit by telling them that the closest land was 4000 m (2.5 miles) below us, and it would take hours for the camera to hit the bottom if they dropped it overboard. We have plenty of GoPro videos of shrieking kids (and adults) enjoying the swim (to be uploaded when we reach good WiFi).

We’ve been motoring towards Spain in the company of two other sailboats that we didn’t know, but could see on the AIS display. Sometime after the swim call, one of the boats called us on the radio and asked if we had any extra fuel to spare, as they were running low and would appreciate a resupply. We replied that we had enough fuel to spare some, but we didn’t have a pump to get the fuel out of the tanks. One of our trusty crew on board, Rob, replied “I’ve grown up working on farms with diesel tractors; I’ve spent my life running out of fuel, we get the fuel to them!”. So, we aimed our bow towards their AIS symbol on the chart and about an hour later parked next to them on the calm sea. They inflated their dinghy and rowed over with two 10 litre diesel can and an improvised pump. The fuel was extracted and we both continued motoring towards Spain.

The forecast is for another calm night and some tail winds to begin filling in after sunrise. We are hopeful that the wind will continue to fill and by mid-day (#4) we will have enough winds to carry us the rest of the ~200 miles to Spain. Remember that you can always track our progress on our maps on the Find Us! page of the website.

Surreal night watch

Day number two at sea was sunny and relaxing. We’ve been motoring most of the day as we are passing through a large high pressure system in the Bay of Biscay. We took a CTD cast off the French coast of Ushant and we deployed the fishing gear (but have not deployed the catching gear yet!). The surface water has warmed from the chilly 14 C of Scotland to a relatively balmy 21 C. The air is just as clear and warm as the sea.

Now, we are enjoying a surreal night watch. Glassy calm seas, surrounded by stars above and French accents on the VHF radio, while rocking-out to Hamilton on the iPad.

We are expecting another calm day tomorrow and I have promised a swim call in 4000 m (2.5 miles!!!) deep water in the middle of Biscay if the water temp rises above 23 C.