We left Brava at 5pm on the 15th of Jan, after spending the day doing all the ‘final things’ and getting ready. We had a 5 day forecast and the winds looked good, from 10 to 25 knots NE. We have also got a system to receive weather faxes while as sea through a combination of our short wave radio which communicates the info and the synoptic charts to the iPad ( which is fantastic).
Cha released our shore lines and we circled around the harbour bay getting the anchor stowed, sails up and lots of waving bye-bye before bashing out into the swell. We rounded Brava to the north. The light was dramatic. Cloud shrouded the islands peaks and hung blue and heavy over a pastel yellow sun set on the horizon. We motored for an hour to get north and clear of the island then engine-off, as it would remain, for the next 16 and a half days. Brava reminded us of northern atlantic islands from this point, its raw volcanic shapes and colours, could have been Iceland or Jan Mayen. The few isolated lights faded into the dark night.
The fist couple of days were pretty rough, the seas were quite mixed up probably due to all the bad weather which had been up north. In fact all the way across the sea didn’t settle into regular pattern, but we got more used to it as time went on. We both weren’t feeling great (sick) on the first night and day. On my part this probably was due to as much to the realisation of what we were letting ourselves in for, for the foreseeable future, as much as the actual conditions we were experiencing. But we got over that pretty quickly and started to get into the rhythm of things. We took 4 hour watches each. which worked well for us. Always Always Alway harnessed on when in the cockpit by ourselves (esp. at night). The wind vain self steering gear was doing the work though. It was amazing keeping us on track all the way across. It would have been a very different experience without it if we had to be hand steering! We saw 5 ships in the first few days, then nothing till the night before we arrived.
The wind was on our rear quarter, from the NE, for the first 3 days or so, so we had both sails set but well reefed and we buzzed along doing 140 NM (over ground) for the first three days! We had the positive effects of the North Equatorial Current in our favour carrying us an extra 20nm per day. Then as we progressed the wind came more from behind ( due East ). This point of sail is not as comfortable and there is more risk of jibing as the boat surfs the waves and troughs. We had the sail sheeted so far out however so this was not too much of a concern. With the wind behind us we sailed with the Main only (with various amounts of reef in it over the time) as the Foresail was shadowed by the main so would not fill. As we were riding the waves and moving about so much it wouldn’t really stay ‘goose-winged’ (thats a sail out either side) so we has a few panels up on the Foresail and sheeted it hard in so it would dampen any rolling side to side. This worked well. Remarkably, we crossed the atlantic using only, on average, 1/4 of our potential sail area!
We had lot of passing squalls. We could often see these coming as dark clouds on the horizon, which we knew would be with us in 10 or 15 mins. In the day they were easier to anticipate, at night less so. They were sometimes quite violent and often brought lashing rain, but would not last long at all, and would pass over us leaving us with the wind strength we had before their arrival. We would reef if we needed to as we saw them coming. We don’t have a wind-omiter so I don’t know the strength of these. Hestur would generally ‘point up’ when they were passing, as the wind would be too strong for the size of vain we had set on the self steering at the time. So she would head more to the North and therefor be going across the wind more, it was then that we really could feel and hear how windy it was, as when you are going down wind its always deceiving as to the strength.
The sea got fairly big at times, but quite comfortable big rollers generally. Despite Hestur’s canoe stern which generally rides a following sea beautifully, we did have a few massive waves which landed in the cockpit, intent on soaking everything.
We left Brava on a full moon so for the next week or so we had beautifully bright nights to sail by. As it receded over the passage and the nights got darker, the stars became more prominent. Many of them shooting! It was an amazing experience to lye in the cockpit on night watches and look up at the nights sky, not needing to check the compass as you could sense if you were going of course at all by looking at the consolations and where they were. This time was made extra special with ipod and headphones.
We would mark our position on the chart at 16.30 every day (This was the time of day we weighed anchor in Brava on the 15th) it was encouraging to see the dots stretch across the blue. On day 8 we were half way. We celebrated this at our 16.30 session by making popcorn. As we progressed west the times got out of sinc with the day light so we adjusted out clocks a few times to keep up (but kept Bravan time 16.30 for daily run) we are now 3 hours different to the Cape Verdes.
We read lots which was very nice to be able to do as neither of us afford much time for reading usually. Thought we would get more practice on the guitar, but alas that wasn’t to be. Listened to music and podcasts we had saved. I made a skirt with some material I had bought in Gambia. ( I have never made clothes before so this was very exciting for me). I followed the pattern of a skirt I have. I also re-made a dress which I bought in Cape Verdes which had a lot of similarities to a sack. We made good food, curries featured highly on our menu. We weren’t board because we had so many books we could be reading etc, but it is most defiantly a different pace of existence at sea which we had to embrace. We go used to the motions of the boat, and never again felt nauseous after the first day or two. The only time it could be irritating was when Hestur took a particularly big roll and we were trying to do something, like dish up food. Dans curry ended up on the other side of the cabin on one of these, and on the last day we lost 2 pots of coffee!
It got hotter as we went west. The sea temp. too. We noticed this in the water we washed the dishes in and we has baths in the cockpit with buckets of sea water
We saw the glow of lights on Barbados In the early hours of Saturday morning and as the sun got up we jibed and set a course for the south of the island, then a wonderful smooth and fast reach up to Bridgetown where we arrived at 09.30 local time 1st of Feb!
Barbados is a Delight, well worth it all. Lots to do and explore now, and need to get our shore legs back yippee!