Crossing the Atlantic, part 1

Tags: Atlantic, Cape Verde, food, Ilha Brava, sailing

Date: December 2, 2016

For this long trip, we figured that we would write down some random thoughts and experiences each day with a few pictures.

We left Ilha Brava at 15:20. Before sailing, we spent the day cooking and getting the boat ready for the long trip. We had done the same the day before. It is nice to have some food that can be prepared quickly the first days, especially if it is windy and sea sickness becomes an issue. This time we made Mexican beef chili with beans to be served with rice and diced avocado and chicken tagine with chickpeas to be eaten with couscous.

Last view of Ilha Brava as we are sailing out of the bay:

It is about 32 degrees C, so keeping warm is no problem. We spent an hour and a half using the engine to get away from the wind shadow of Brava. At the same time we topped off the batteries, made hot water and created fresh water from the sea water.

We have what is called a watermaker that can create about 60 liters of fresh water from sea water in an hour. It uses about 40 A (at 12 V), so we only use it when running the engine or when the batteries have been nicely topped off from the solar panels.

Today, we were joined by a pod of dolphins (probably Atlantic spotted dolphins) that stayed with us for about 45 minutes:

The first 24 hours sailing went well, but a little slow. We only had about 12-15 knots of winds from ENE. In the afternoon of day 2, the wind picked up to around 20 knots, so speed increased.

Not much wind in the morning so we motored for four hours while waiting for it to pick up again. This gave us the chance to top off the batteries and make some water. For the first time we saw another ship which was about 6 miles away when closest.

Other than that, not too much happened. The way our shifts work is that Bjarne has the shifts from 23:00-03:00, 07:00-11:00 and 15:00-19:00. Felicie has the other shifts. When we are off shift, we can do what we want, which is usually to sleep. We typically eat breakfast individually on our morning shifts. Then we have lunch together around 11:00 and dinner around 19:00. As we go west, we will make it through a couple of time zones. On average the time should change about 8 minutes per day. The plan is just to stay on Cape Verde time, so the sun will rise and set later and later during the trip.

Well, something did happen: just before dinner, we caught a very small tuna using the fishing gear our friend Matt has provided. We ate the tuna as sushi (sashimi) for a starter at dinner.

The nights are pitch black since the moon doesn't come up before early in the morning these days. And the nights have been cloudy, so you really have to strain to even figure out where the horizon is. But tonight the stars come out at around 22:30. At that time, we had to adjust the sails a bit since we had very little wind. We don't go on deck unless the other person is watching, so we try to make big changes to the sail configuration around the time we switch watches.

Just as I was walking along the deck with my headlamp on, this guy shows up:

It is a storm petrel. The people at helped identify it.

It flew straight into the sail and fell into the bag on the boom that holds the sail. It flew fairly slowly, so did not get hurt. But it did not want to fly again. I guess it was tired. So we had a blind passenger aboard for a couple of hours. This was about 500 km from the nearest land.

Again thanks to Matt, this morning, we caught this fish:

It is probably a jack of some sort. Part of it was turned into poisson cru by marinating thin slices in lime juice and coconut milk and serving it with diced cucumber, avocado, onion and chili.

A little later we had a new visitor:

It must be unusual to have an owl come by this far from land. It just landed for about a minute and took off again. It headed straight west. I wonder if it is also aiming for Barbados. The helpful people at Birding Aboard identified this one as a short-eared owl.

We had very little wind on day four, so we set the asymmetric spinnaker around noon. It is a bit complicated to set up, but it increased our speed from a little under 3 knots to over 4 knots.

We talked briefly on the radio with another sailboat heading for Barbados like us. It feels a little less lonely knowing that other boats are out there even if we can't see them.

Still very slow progress and not much action. However, here is a sunset picture:

Still very little wind. We are starting to get a bit frustrated about how slow we are sailing and begin to discuss the possibility of skipping Barbados altogether and instead go directly to Grenada where we are supposed to meet family for Christmas. There is still plenty of time so we do not have to make that decision now but it is nice to have a plan B.

There was not a lot going on and not much wind. We had homemade blackcurrant ice cream in the afternoon which was nice since it was 33 degrees:

The wind died completely at around 22:00. So we motored all night.

The wind started picking up again in the morning, so we set the spinnaker again. We have been using the spinnaker almost all the time the last several days:

A few hours before having spent a week at sea we had done a third of the trip to Barbados. The total is 2040 nm (3778 km).

During the day two nisser showed up from their hiding place, reminding us that it is Dec. 1st:

We are fishing again today but are not successful. We had fish biting twice but both times we lost them again, the second fish disappearing with the lure. During the night we are hit by a squall with lots of rain and some wind. The boat gets a much needed rinse off from Cape Verdean dust, salt and smelly scales from all the flying fish landing on the boat at night.

The wind picked up a bit today. We talked on the radio with a French sailboat on the way to Guadeloupe. They asked for a weather forecast which we gave them.

Then we got lucky and caught a decent sized mahi mahi/dolphin fish in beautiful blues and greens. Dinner is saved one more time:

It doesn't get much fresher than this: