Passage to Barbados: Day 12

Day 12: 20 November 2016

Our twelfth day at sea was characterized by, yet again, another perfect day of sailing! We enjoyed trade winds of about 20 knots from the East. For Laridae, 20 knots seems to be an ideal wind speed. There is enough wind to keep the sails fully powered up and sail at a comfortable 6 knots, yet the seas do not become too large.

At lunch time, we passed an important milestone of only 500 miles remaining to Barbados. This represents about four days of sailing remaining, and also puts us within motoring range (if necessary for any reason).

Anneka and Dorian spent some time preparing a mini church service for us. This included some songs, played joyously on guitar by Anneka, and a reading that Anneka composed independently.

“We are almost in Barbados and maybe tonight, before you go to bed, or when you are doing a night watch, say ‘Thank You’ to God for helping us get this far. He has already given us so much, and most of it we don’t even think about it. Say ‘Thank You’ for getting us this far, because this is a place that is the most special and unexplored in the world, and us kids got here before we were even teenagers! The life out in the ocean helps us live. The micro plankton gives off 50% of the Earth’s oxygen. Say ‘Thank You’ for helping us get this far, and pray that we will enjoy the rest of the trip.”

Her words were wise, eloquent, humble, and even include a mini biological oceanography lecture! 🙂

We continued to celebrate the day with seawater showers (buckets full of water dumped on our heads) and a few litres of freshwater to rinse off the salt. Wow, it felt great!

The day concluded with one of the nicest nights of sailing that we have enjoyed. We were gently surfing down the (for once!) organized Atlantic swell, with the Orion constellation brilliantly lit directly behind us, white Venus and red Mars twinkling ahead of us, and the rest of the night sky occasionally interrupted with glowing shooting stars.

We used the favourable winds to tally up 146 miles.

Passage to Barbados: Day 11

Day 11: 19 November 2016

After the light winds, lumpy seas, and low distance run of Day 10, we were pleased to welcome the return of the traditional trade winds. Dawn brought 15-18 knot winds from the East. They slowly increased to a steady 20 knots. Laridae enjoyed being fully powered up and carved a nice wake through the waves.

With only 700 miles remaining until we reach Barbados, we passed the important 2/3rds-of-the-way-there threshold. We celebrated with a breakfast of really good crispy-fried bacon and potatoes. Later in the day, we were treated to a brief show of dolphins surfing in the waves. There were about five, fairly small, dolphins that swam with us, surfing in the waves, and frequently darting backwards. We presume that that were chasing flying fish for dinner, or just sport. We have seen many very tiny (5-7 cm) flying fish darting through the air, and occasionally landing on deck.

The return of the solid trade winds improved our daily run to 147 miles.

Passage to Barbados: Day 10

Day 10: 18 November 2016

The dark clouds, sometimes associated with rain and gusty winds, seem to be more prevalent during night watch. We can see the rain clouds well on radar, and under the light of the bright moon. On Eric’s night watch of Day 10, an unusually large and dark cloud was tracking directly for Laridae. As the cloud got closer, Eric battened down the hatches to keep rain and salty waves out of the beds. Closer still, Eric reduced sail in an effort to get ahead of the possibly gusty winds. Shortly thereafter, Eric covered up the companion way and put on his rain jacket (Gasp! The first time he has worn that jacket since Falmouth, England!). There he sat – hatches battened, sails reefed, door closed, raincoat on – ready for the worst the squall would offer. And he sat, and sat, and sat. The cloud passed along side and brought no rain or wind.

During the light of day, we were delighted to see schools of fish swimming along side the boat as we sailed at about 5 knots. The fish were about 40-50 cm long and had bright green highlights. Quickly, we deployed the fishing gear, but the only thing that we caught were some nice underwater images of the fish schools with the GoPro.

Have you ever heard a fact that made your head explode? Here is a fact from Day 10: our head exploded! Shortly after Eliana showed Eric that she knew how to flush the head (toilet) all by her self, Eric noticed that it felt a bit clogged. He pumped a few more times to try to push the clog through the system, but the back-pressure grew stronger. In an effort to clear the clog, Eric unscrewed a part of the toilet and — boom! – the contents from all of the toilet plumbing exploded all over the head… and Eric! It took one second to make the mistake of unscrewing that part, and the better part of two hours of Eric and Angela’s work to clean up the $#!tty mess sloshing back and forth in the waves and 30 deg heat. Finally, we fixed clogged toilet and the head is cleaner than it has been in a long time!

Shortly before dark, the light wind became even lighter and we made the decision to gybe and make some tracks to the south. We sailed in light and variable winds, with particularly lumpy seas, all night. Our daily run for Day 10 was only 114 miles.

Passage to Barbados: Day 9

Day 9: 17 November 2016

After motoring since 1 AM, the wind finally filled in at about 11 AM with a steady 12 knots from the ENE.  We were glad to turn the hot, noisy engine off and resume great trade wind sailing.

We deployed the fishing gear again, and finally caught something — a large clump of the omnipresent Sargasum seaweed. Clumps of the Sargasum float all around the Atlantic and tend to converge in large mats in the centre of the Atlantic Gyre; an area known as the Sargasso Sea.  Thankfully, we will not be passing through that area of large seeweed mats (too far to our North), but we do get to see small clumps of the seewead every day.  

After pooping on our deck all night, the White Ibis finally departed for distant shores.  We enjoyed having the bird’s company, but we were more pleased when Robyn graciously offered to bring a bucket and scrub brush on deck to clean off the mess!

During the day, we passed the imaginary longitudinal line of the 45 deg West meridian.  Since we started this journey in the UK, home of the Prime Meridian (0 deg) in Greenwich, we figured that we have already sailed 1/8 of the way around the world!

As dusk approached, we retrieved the fishing gear and redeployed the hydro-generator.  The boat took an unexpected roll and Eric accidentally dropped the kitchen scissors, cheerfully referred to as the “Bone Cutters” in our family, overboard!  We were sad to see these be lost because they worked very well, and also because they were a gift from Angela’s brother, Joey, for our wedding 17 years ago.

Never letting an opportunity to teach math be lost, we worked with Anneka and Dorian to calculate how long it would take the scissors to sink to the bottom of the ocean.  Assuming a sink rate of about 10 cm/s, and that we were in 6000 m of water (3.7 miles deep!), we calculated that the scissors wouldn’t reach the bottom until the time that we were eating lunch the next day, 17 hours later!

We continued to have peaceful sailing the rest of the day and logged a total distance run of 136 miles.

Passage to Barbados: Day 8

Day 8: 16 November 2016

Dawn on our eighth day at sea arrived with moody skies threatening of rain or squalls. We were warned that the likelihood of encountering squalls would increase as we sailed westward. The squalls can come with loads of rain and strong, shifty winds, or no wind at all. As this particular rain cloud approached from behind, we quickly rolled in the genoa in preparation for shifty, gusty winds. Fortunately, we only encountered a few moments of rain and no change in wind speed or direction.

The rain was enough to wash the salt spray off the decks and wake the young crew at sunrise. The early start to the day was not wasted; the goal was to get all homework tasks accomplished before lunch so that we could have an important celebration in the afternoon —- Half Way There!

The crew (kids and adults alike) worked on decorations for the Half Way There party. We made a sign (“Yay, 1/2 Way”), decorations for our hair, and pom-pom shakers. As the important distance milestone approached, we gathered in the cockpit to enjoy ginger beer and lime mocktails and to make some noise!

Just at the instant of crossing the magic halfway line, a fish hit our lure and we went into panic mode! Get the kids harnessed in a place to watch the landing; get the gloves; get the gaff! By the time we were organized enough to start hauling in the 50 m fishing line, the fish got away. We pulled the lure in to find that two of the three hooks had been straightened by the load of the fish fighting against the boat. We would have loved to catch a fish, but not TOO big a fish!

After sorting our the mayhem, we returned to the cockpit to celebrate getting that much closer to Barbados with a lot of cheers, all captured on a very memorable video!

During the afternoon, another White Ibis landed on the boat. It found a quiet corner with no wind in the lee of the dodger, and decided to take a rest. It joined us all evening and all night; pooping on the decks fairly regularly.

We celebrated getting half way to Barbados with a dinner feast of (canned) Indian food, steamy rice, warm naan bread, and chilled mango chutney. It was certainly a feast to remember.

We also celebrated that we had been a “carbon neutral” boat for the past 72 hours. The solar panels and hydro-generator had provided enough power for past three days to supply all of our power requirements on the boat, including running the navigation instruments, the autopilot, the refrigerator, the lights, and the numerous mobile phones and tablets. We also have a wind generator. However, when running before light tailwinds, the apparent wind over the deck is too low to provide much power from the wind generator.

As night approached, the winds lightened to about 10 knots and we slid silently through the water towards Barbados. Over the SSB net, we heard that many boats were reporting less than 5 knots of wind, so we were very thankful for our 10 knots. However, shortly after midnight, the wind dropped for us and we, reluctantly, started the motor to top off the batteries and keep forward speed to help improve the motion of the boat. Our total run for the day was 120 miles.

Passage to Barbados: Day 7

Day 7: 15 November 2016

In many ways, Day 7 was much like Day 6, and Day 5, and Day 4. We had a consistent 12 knots of wind from the East and we sailed at about 5-6 knots towards Barbados. We were visited by a swallow that circled our boat many times, eyed the squid lure we were towing, and then took off towards distant horizons.

We encountered several patches of unusually choppy water. The typical sea conditions in 12 knots of wind are fairly consistent waves and very few breaking white caps. However, on several occasions, we passed through areas that had shorter waves with about 30-50% of them breaking as white caps. These patches were approximately 1 km wide. They were very broadly spaced and, from what we could tell, not periodic. We only passed through about 3 or 4 during the course of the day. Because our knot log (paddlewheel speed sensor) has been jammed stuck since leaving Mindelo, we were only able to get our speed as SOG from the GPS. Therefore, we were unable to measure the difference between the knot log and SOG to determine if these were different ocean currents. You can imagine the frustration for the physical oceanographer onboard! Perhaps some colleagues will be able to provide an idea of what was causing this phenomena.

Eliana enjoyed a juicy orange for a snack. This might sound like a trivial detail, but it was a major activity for her, and a sincere highlight of our day. She spent about an hour devouring the orange. Sitting on the cockpit floor, with a plate and several towels below her, she separated each section of the orange and, systematically, ate every morsel of the orange, leaving not a bit of juice or pulp go to waste. She loved every second of the experience, and we loved cleaning up the sticky mess that followed!

We crossed another major milestone today — logging a total of 5000 miles below Laridae’s keel since we purchased her in Guernsey, Channel Islands, in July 2015.

With the moon rising a little after sunset, we were privileged to have some skies dark enough to see the numerous stars. During night watch, Eric saw a brilliant shooting star. It looked like a green comet falling to earth. The bulbous front of the shooting star, and symmetrical left and right sides of the streaming tail, light up the sky for a solid two seconds. After the green glow subsided, the smokey trail remained visible in the ambient starlight.

We logged a total of 133 miles towards Barbados in the calmer wind and sea.

Passage to Barbados: Day 6

Day 6: 14 November 2016

We were treated to very mellow, but very steady trade winds today. We had about 12 knots of wind from the East with almost no variation in speed or direction. Again, we did not touch the sails or autopilot for most of the day. The waves were small, but there was still some swell that caused the boat to roll, so we had to hold on tight most of the day when walking around or when cooking.

We started fishing today, but we didn’t catch anything. That is not entirely true; we caught several flying fish on deck each night. One fish landed in the cockpit during the night when Robyn was on watch. Unfortunately, by the time we find the fish in the morning, they are dead (well dehydrated).

We often marvel at the very low chances that a fish would get stuck on the boat. Out of the entire ocean for flying, it would have to have the very bad fortune to fly in the vicinity of our boat. Beyond that, it would need to jump high enough to clear the decks. Even beyond that, it would need to aim so carefully as to fit in the narrow gaps between the child netting surrounding the decks. Angela even wrote a story about the experience of an unlucky fish during our Pacific crossing in 2003. A diligent blog reader might be able to find that story on the Pacific Crossing section of our former blog on

So, with these unlikely chances in mind, one flying fish last night had even worse luck. He had the misfortune to fly in the vicinity of the boat, clear the decks *and* clear the child netting. He somehow landed in the very narrow area of a section of the bow locker that always contains about one inch of seawater. This is analogous to scoring a random basket in the middle of the ocean. The poor fish must have thought “wow, I cleared the lifelines to hit the boat, but somehow I landed back in the sea”… only to find out that it was nearly impossible for him to jump out of the bow locker back into the sea. Unfortunately, by the time we found this fish, it too, had perished.

We used the opportunity of the delightful conditions to, of course, cook more good food, and do several activities with the kids. The menu consisted of Laridae’s Famous Veggie Chilli with homemade cornbread. The kids made cool bracelets from a kit that Robyn brought. We spent hours playing the game Memory with pairs of cards of flags from various countries. They also started rehearsing for a performance that we will record based on the Hamilton musical. If you know the Siegel kids, you will know that they love performances! If there was to be a soundtrack from this trip, it would most certainly be Hamilton!

The lighter winds contributed to a slower day, but we still managed to log a daily run of 136 miles in the direction of Barbados.

Passage to Barbados: Day 5

Day 5: 13 November 2016

We are getting used to sailing in the trade winds. We still haven’t changed the sail set since the morning of Day 2. We have only adjusted the sails in and out a small bit to change the location of chafe points. The winds and seas were slightly calmer than yesterday; about 15-20 knots during the day, and 10-15 knots at night.

We deployed Eliana’s drifter buoy and messages at 13.3N, 35W. Shortly after deploying her buoy, we were treated to a small pod of Pilot Whales. The whales were surfing in the residual swell and having a great time. They swam with us for about 5 minutes before returning, presumably, to their regular routine of feeding, playing, feeding, playing, etc.

We enjoyed a quite day of watching the waves, listening to podcasts (Stuff You Should Know: Maggots – Good for healing wounds, turns out… Anneka’s choice!), and eating good food. We’ve been storing away some of the best treats for this specific Atlantic crossing. The treat today – Trader Joe’s Chipotle Black Bean Dip – specially imported from the Hingham, MA, store on Eric’s last trip to the USA before departing on Laridae.

For those in the know, you’ll understand why we love this black bean dip. For those unfamiliar with the delicacy, you should understand that the dip inspired a heated debate between Anneka and Dorian about the pros and cons of residing in the USA (essentially dip vs Trump).

We celebrated the approaching milestone of getting 1/3 of the way across the Atlantic with, wait for it… showers! It was calm enough on the deck to take a seawater bath (seawater buckets dumped over our heads) and rinse with a very small quantity of fresh water. This was a real joy with the warm seawater (about 28 deg C), warm air, and calms seas. We carry about 200 gallons of fresh water on board (no watermaker) and we anticipate that we will be able to complete the 15-18 day passage with only using 100 gallons among the 3 adults and 3 kids. Yes, we ration fresh water carefully!

The daily run in the lighter conditions was 148 miles.

Passage to Barbados: Day 4

Day 4: 12 November 2016

Day 4 dawned to find a substantially more organized sea state, smaller waves, and about 15-20 knot winds from the ENE. This was the perfect combination for ideal trade wind sailing. The motion on the boat was much more comfortable, yet we were able to continue to sail quickly in our intended direction.

We used the more comfortable motion as an opportunity to catch up on school work and cook lots of great food. In an effort to get ahead of the mold race, we cooked a large batch of french toast for breakfast. For lunch, we enjoyed a chilled pasta salad with loads of fresh tomatoes. Dinner was highlighted with a large serving of “Bryan’s Famous Burritos” (named after Eric’s grad school roommate’s simple, but awesome recipe), with toppings of freshly chopped tomatoes and spicy salsa.

Dorian’s drifter with his message in the bottle was deployed 2.5 degrees (about 242 km) WSW of the previous drifter at a position of 14N, 32.5W. We plan to deploy Eliana’s drifter tomorrow at a location 2.5 degrees away from Dorian’s drifter in an experiment to see how differently the three drifters move when deployed closely, but equally spaced away from each other.

Another passage milestone was crossed and celebrated today as we reached the 25% completed mark (525 miles sailed, 1575 miles to go).

We did something else unusual today – we turned! From the onset, we decided to not take a direct sailing route (along the rhumbline) from Cape Verde to Barbados. Rather, we first sailed a little south of the direct route. We made this decision for several reasons. First, the winds and seas at the beginning of the passage were such that it was a safer and more comfortable ride to sail an angle a little south of the direct route. Second, we anticipated the strong NE winds would veer to the more traditional ENE and then East trade winds as we worked our way further south and west. Third, the trade winds are typically a little more consistent south of the direct route. Finally, being a little closer to the equator can be a good plan if there was to be any hint of a late-season tropical depression. The circulation around a low (strong winds) are weaker towards the equator.

Because of these reasons, we picked an arbitrary waypoint at a location 13N, 35W. This waypoint is approximately 1/3 of the distance westward from Cape Verde to Barbados, and at the same latitude as Barbados. As we were approaching within about 50 miles of this waypoint, the winds, seas, and weather forecast (a good forecast) indicated that we were sufficiently south enough and we could turn to the right about 20 degrees and sail a direct route Westward to Barbados. We are happy to corroborate our (numerous) GPS system and sail directly towards the setting sun!

So, if you look at our PredictWind or Spot Tracker maps, you should notice that we turned today. A very exciting activity, indeed. Please note, however, that we didn’t have to adjust the sails much — these are the trade winds, of course – where adjusting the sails is a rare occurrence. We have been sailing with the same set (genoa polled to starboard, staysail polled to port) since the morning of Day 2.

On a less sarcastic note, the astute observer may notice that the battery voltage on our Spot Tracker map may show a low voltage warning, and eventually die out. We only have a few spare batteries for this tracker (AAA Lithium batteries are difficult to find around here). However, not to worry, we are well and the PredictWind tracking map will continue to work as the Iridium GO is connected directly to the boat batteries which are in good condition and can be recharged with the sun, wind, water, and engine!

The daily run total was 150 miles. The weather forecast is favourable with continued 15 knot winds from the East for several more days.

Passage to Barbados: Day 3

Day 3: 11 November 2016

Our third full day at sea began with continued brisk trade winds of 25-30 knots and a slightly more organized sea. The swell was running at times higher than 3 m, and this contributed to continued good surfing conditions. The kids, unfazed by the powerful wind and waves, invented a new game called “Surf’s Up!”. When they would see a particularly large wave coming from astern, they would yell “Surf’s Up” if they thought that the boat would start surfing at over 11 knots.

So far, the boat and equipment has been holding out well in the powerful conditions. The only loss sustained, thus far, has been an overboard solar shower. One of our 20 litre solar showers, previously lashed to the stern deck, was washed overboard during the night. When we found the remaining handle, still lashed in place, but sans water reservoir, Dorian proclaimed “One shower down, two to go!” Clearly, he is not optimistic that the other two solar showers will remain on deck as well.

The White Ibis that landed on deck yesterday stayed with us throughout the night. We treated it to a breakfast of partially-dried flying fish – fresh off the decks. We first fed it the very small (10 cm) fish and it immediately gulped it down. We thought that the larger fish (25 cm) might be too big for a one-bite-meal, so we graciously cut it up into little bite-sized portions and tossed it on the deck near the bird. After about 10 minutes of staring at the fish-bits suspiciously (we suppose the bird doesn’t normally receive such excellent service), it approached cautiously. With GoPro in hand, and the kids focused intently, the bird stretched out its long neck towards the new meal and promptly regurgitated the first fish onto the deck. Now, the deck was covered in fish bits, partially digested fish, and of course, plenty of bird poop from the previous night. Unimpressed by our culinary skills, the White Ibis took off for its next meal and it has not returned.

In tribute to the many flying fish we have found on deck, and as part of his continuing Language Arts program, Dorian composed a short poem titled “One Last Flight”:

— One Last Flight —
by Dorian Siegel

I fly through the water and the air.
I jump often here and there.
I hope not be ‘meal of the day’.
Instead, I land on Laridae.

Anneka added to the poem with the following versus:

As a flying fish I am the prey.
So when I land on Laridae,
I think it safe, but its not,
Because the decks are really hot!
Then a boy comes up to say
“Here little guy, I’ll save the day!”
He puts me in a plastic bag,
Then throws me into a wave.
Oh no! A shark!
I jump back on, it’s safer here.
But I guess that was my one last flight.

As part of our continued physical oceanography projects, we deployed the first of our “messages in the bottle drifters”. Anneka and her friends wrote a series of messages and we put them into a glass wine bottle and tied it to a GPS drifter with Iridium tracking telemetry. At mid-day, in position 15N, 30W, we turned the drifter on and tossed it into the sea. The position of the messages in the bottle will be reported every hour for the next several years. We look forward to tracking the position of the bottle, and hopefully, one day, receiving a reply from the lucky beachcomber who finds the bottle.

We have two more drifters, one for Dorian and one for Eliana, that we will be deploying over the next two days. The goal is to deploy each drifter about 200 km apart, and watch the different paths that they take across the ocean. We will post a blog with the real-time tracking map as soon as it is ready.

Our total miles run for Day 3 was 160.