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!

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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).