Friday, December 23, 2011

Diary of the passage

 So, we are still in Jolly Harbor in Antigua, we spent the day and the night in the marina. It was a lazy day yesterday and calm and a peaceful night. We cleaned the boat a bit, find the laundry service and had a good dinner in the evening. Today we are leaving the marina and are heading towards English Harbor, where there is a big Christmas party tomorrow that we don't want to miss.

Here below is the diary of our Atlantic passage, as it was written every day through the journey. I'm still gathering some pictures and thoughts and there will be more posts about the passage in near future.

Guys were finishing boat project and preparing the boat for the ocean and Mirjana and I did the provisioning. It was much harder than I thought, there were tones of stuff to be brought back to the boat and even worse – they needed to be stowed away. I just hope to be able to remember what we have and where it is.

1st day - 30th November
We sailed off at 5 in the afternoon. There wasn't much wind, but waves were short and annoying. I had hard time cooking the supper (chicken fillets in cheese and garlic sauce) and then the crew had hard time eating it without letting meat and salad slide from their plates. I skipped the dinner, my stomach didn't want to get used to the movement of the boat just yet. During the night wind slowly grew stronger, and so did the waves. We decided on fixed 3-hours watches and during the night we were all tethered (tied to a boat with a rope).

2nd day - 1st December
Sea was choppy but at least sailing speed was good. In the middle of the day a huge flock of dolphins, about 50, came to play around our boat for half an hour. It was a real acrobatic show that they presented and we enjoyed it immensely. The highlight was without a doubt when couple of dolphins clapped on the surface with their tails. We haven't seen anything like it before. In the crowd of so many dolphins the turtle, that swam by, almost got by unnoticed. We spent the rest of the day repairing refrigerator that died on us that morning. After several hours the cause of troubles turned out to be the cooling pump, that stopped working each time when some air came into it. With waves like we were having that happened on each wave. We can only hope for the sea to get calmer eventually. The wind grew throughout the day and so did the waves. Cooking dinner was again a hard work (beef in mushroom sauce and tortillas), luckily this time we were all hungry and able to eat.

3rd day - 2nd December
From the forecast we knew this day and the following night the wind will be the strongest, so we were all a bit nervous about it. The wind wasn't gentle up till now and we all had some problems with the waves. We decided to have burgers for dinner, so no plates or knives and forks were necessary. As wind was growing stronger we were reefing the sails. In the evening we were sailing in 30 knots of wind and were surfing down the waves with great speed. The waves were coming at us from different directions and some of them managed to spit and spray some water into the cockpit. Then suddenly a giant wave came from the side, broke over the boat and managed to get a lot of water into cockpit and even down below. All of us were awake immediately and came out to see what was happening. There was no damage on the boat, so we started to get the water out of the boat. It wasn't to bad, but it was unpleasant work that we had to do in very unpleasant weather. During the night the wind got up to 35-40 knots and genoa got reefed more and more until it was just a small piece of cloth. It was a bit scary, but luckily in the morning wind started to calm down a bit.

4th day - 3rd December
The day was again rough, with wind between 20 and 30 knots and very choppy sea. And none of us got much sleep the night before. We tried to sleep as much as possible during the day and ate only “gentle food” - bread and butter, cookies and risotto with vegetables and chicken for dinner. The night was not so bad, even waves got tamer, so sleeping was a bit easier.

5th day - 4th December
First half of the day was great, wind got down to 20 knots and waves were bearable. We were all enjoying “normal” sailing and warm sun. In the afternoon we even catch our first dorado. What a beautiful fish. I apologized to it for taking its life. Anyway, we are eating fish tomorrow. In the afternoon seas got heavier again, just in time for cooking dinner (chicken in cheese sauce and potatoes). I'm starting to think this is happening on purpose.

6th day - 5th December
Night was terrible, sea was extremely choppy with waves from several directions. None of us got much sleep. Morning was grey and hazy with visibility down to half a mile, but waves got tamer and tamer. We still have 15 to 20 knots of wind and are traveling with good speed on full genoa – full for the irst time after the first day. By noon sun managed to come from behind the clouds and the sea was much more bearable. The good spirit was back again. And today we've eaten our yesterdays catch – we ate dorado as sushi with soy sauce and wasabi, from bones and head we made a soup and for dinner we had grilled fish filets and rice. Fish was exquisite in all variations, we ate it with great joy and gratitude, so it died for good cause.

7th day - 6th December
Finally things are getting into normal rhythm. We slept well and the day was like summer holiday. Wind got a bit weaker so we flew a genaker whole day. It was calm enough to make a barbeque. In the afternoon we caught another dorado, so we had grilled fish, burgers and tortillas and cucumber salad for dinner.

8th day - 7th December
In the night the wind got weaker so for the first time we wished for more wind for faster sailing. We are still doing above 5 knots in average, but our overall average from first few days was 6 knots. In the morning we pulled up a genaker again, but the block at the top of the mast, that was holding genaker halyard, fell apart after ten minutes, so we quickly pulled it down again. Then we pulled out the genoa again and put a flock in another track on genoa roller, so now we are flying wing-on-wing with both genoa poles. Sea temperature rose to 28 degrees, so we opened a “open bathroom” season – we were “bathing” on the platform at the back of our boat with sea water. The calm day was just right for another barbeque, this time we had T-bone stakes and potato and cabbage salad. We opened a good bottle of Lanzarote's red wine and the day was perfect.

9th day - 8th December
Night was calm, the only thing disturbing our sleep was noise from genoa poles rattling against the mast when wind weakened. Which happened a lot and stayed that way throughout the day. Shortly before 10 in the evening we crossed 1000th mile of our journey. Day was sunny and warm and we were reading books, talking and lazying around. No luck with fishing today, so we ate beef in mustard sauce and rice and tomato salad made of our last tomatoes. In the evening wind changed direction so we pulled down the flock and pulled up the main. We are hoping for more wind tomorrow.

10th day - 9th December
Night was very slow, due to very gentle wind and partially due to sailing on genoa alone. We pulled the main back down because the wind was changing directions so much it was difficult to keep the boom from flying over the boat. So this morning we put flock back on. Wind is getting stronger and stronger so we've been sailing fast whole day. Since yesterday evening it is very cloudy, we hope no rain or anything more unpleasant is cooking up. I bake my first bread on this trip today, we ate the last of bread we bought on Lanzarote yesterday. We also finished bananas, pineapple and tomatoes. We still have apples for couple of days and some cucumbers, red and green peppers and red and green cabbage. When we will finnish all this, we will switch to canned fruits and vegetables.

11th day - 10th December
The wind is getting stronger and stronger and seas heavier. We are all pleased with the good speed we are having. Today was a fish day – we caught first dorado already in the morning before breakfast and second, the big one, in the early afternoon. It was cloudy all day so it seems this is the right kind of weather and visibility for catching fish. But life on the boat in this kind of sea is hard, even taking a shower is a hard work. Not to mention cooking. Or eating – on several previous occasions stakes and potatoes were flying around the cockpit. We ate fish stew for dinner – from bowls.

12th day – Sunday 11th December
In the evening we pulled down the flock and reefed the genoa, since wind was getting stronger. Even so we had average speed of 7,4 knots in the night and 7,6 knots this morning. Unfortunately our genoa pole broke, so we are sailing without it now. In strong wind this is not a problem, even in 5m waves as we are having. The day was cloudy and we even had some rain in the afternoon. I bake the bread again, and we ate grilled fish steaks and tortillas for dinner.

13th day - 12th December
The night was very windy and the sea was rough with waves up to 5m from several directions. It was quite a work keeping a watch and it was not easy to sleep either. This morning the weather didn't change, we had wind of 25 to 30 knots and heavy seas, and again a lot of clouds and some rain. We are sailing very fast, we had average speed of 7,2 knots in the night and 7,6 in the morning. But the wild movement of the boat is making life on board difficult, even simplest tasks are a hard work. So there isn't much one can do except read, sleep and eat. And cook of course. And because of the heavy sea we ate again food from the bowls – pasta with vegetable and fish (made of fish we caught, of course).

14th day - 13th December
Night was again windy but waves were a bit more round, so some of us got a bit more sleep during the night. There were couple of short showers in the night, like we are having now for the third day in the row. But in the morning the weather got even worse – there were already couple of showers between 7 and 9, and afterwards a big cloud has grown from behind us over the sky and with it came very strong wind and a lot of rain. It seemed like heavy rain has flattened the sea and the boat was flying over it, we had average speed of 7,7 knots. It was my watch, so i was the one that got very wet. By 11 rain was gone but it wasn't until afternoon that we saw the sun. The wind got steady at 20 knots and we were again sailing pretty fast. Waves were not so pointy and erratic as last days. Regardless it was difficult to cook and eat, so we ate from bowls again – cooked potato and veal and beans stew. We are hoping for quieter night and some sunshine tomorrow! Can't believe we are already sailing for almost two weeks! At this speed we shall be on Antigua in 7 – 8 days. Can hardly wait to step on land again and have a peaceful night on anchor – without watches.

15th day - 14th December
The night was a bit quieter and we slept better, there were again some short showers during night watches. The day was surprisingly sunny and with little clouds, but the sea was still choppy and sailing bumpy. There was enough wind to keep the good speed between 6 and 7 knots. Today we passed 2000 miles of our journey and a bit later got closer to Antigua than 1000 miles. Other than that nothing really exciting happened. We cooked fish curry with boiled potatoes for dinner.

16th day - 15th December
The wind and waves got a bit calmer in the night, so we had a good night. This changed in the morning with strong gusts of wind to 35 knots and heavy rain and heavy sea, and by the evening we were all wet several times and very tired. It was a terrible day, all of us were really tired after each watch. We eat only sandwiches, it was to wild inside of boat to prepare anything and most of us were not hungry anyway. Forecast said that tomorrow will be another rainy day, but with less wind and we hope also less waves. The wind is suppose to turn to W to NW, weaken to 5 – 15 knots, which is not the direction or strength we would like. If so, we will use motor more and catch up with sleeping and eating.

17th day - 16th December
Last two yesterday watches were stormy and rainy, but clouds were already breaking and now and then there were couple of stars. The rest of the night went even quieter and we got some rest from the hard day. Morning was nice and sunny and we had some short showers before noon with long periods of sun in between, and it was completely different from stormy grey depressive yesterday. Around noon a flock of dolphins came by to say hi, the first ones after more than one week. Afternoon was sunny and warm, we enjoyed the summer. We even saw a couple of whales splashing in the distance. Wind was getting weaker and the waves smaller, and wind turned from S to W. Luckily the forecast wasn't completely right, there was enough wind to sail, but it was blowing from the wrong direction. Hopefully wind will turn to NW, so we can proceed in better or even right direction. We ate steaks and tortillas and cucumber salad for lunch, this time from plates and with forks and knives again. We are hoping for a quiet night and tomorrow for a sunny day without rain and moderate wind from NW. So if Santa is reading this ...

18th day - 17th December
The evening was calm, we sailed under a starry sky until 4.30 in the morning. Wind was still blowing from W, but we had enough speed so that we were still doing between 2 and 3 miles per hour in direction Antigua. Towards the morning wind weakened so we started the engine. In the evening we saw the light of another boat on the horizon, and later we saw yet another vessel 16 miles away on AIS. None of them came close enough to make a contact. Day was warm and summery, but unfortunately with little wind, and even that from wrong direction. Santa is obviously not in the office yet ... We pulled up the sails again in the morning and tried tacking towards west, but it was to frustrating. Our speed was not so bad considering the gentle wind, but we were hardly making any progress towards west, where we should be going. So we made a break to swim in the ocean and had a barbeque in the afternoon – to make the most of the beautiful day. We had T-bone stakes and potato and cabbage salad for lunch, and a bottle of fine red wine from Lanzarote. In the afternoon we started the engine again – until the wind turns or at least get stronger.

19th day – Sunday 18th December
The night was calm, in late evening there were traces of wind from NW, but they soon faded away. So we motored for the rest of the night and whole day. It was a sunny day with clear blue sky, like it should be in tropics. We made a stop for bathing in Atlantic again. There were no ships, no birds, no dolphins and no whales to be seen, just a flying fish or two. We ate fish salad (made of fish we caught, the big one, and froze) with freshly baked bread for lunch and chicken and salad for dinner. In the evening there was a bit of wind again, but not enough to sail on sails alone, so we motor-sailed for a while. After midnight we were motoring again.

20th day - 19th December
If we hadn't have these couple of days with no wind, we would be on Antigua tomorrow. So it will probably be on Thursday. Although these last days were slow and nothing happened, I rather liked it. Much more than storm four days ago. The day was cloudy with no wind, but enough sun to make a stop for bathing again. We had pasta-chicken salad for lunch. We motored until 5 in the afternoon, then big rainy cumulus clouds came closer from the north and with them came some rain and the wind. It started moderately, but soon the wind was blowing stronger and the sailing got fast again, up to 9 knots.

21th day - 20th December
Night was stormy and bumpy and it was not easy to sleep. The morning was the same – wind was strong – up to 30 knots, there was some rain and waves got bigger to. So it was same kind of wild sailing we've already got used to by now. I really thought, we would have more stable weather, with stable wind around 20 knots from E or NE, waves up to 3m and less rain. But obviously i had wrong impression how sailing in trade winds should look like. In the afternoon at least the sun came out, the wind and waves stayed the same. We ate fish curry with boiled potatoes – from the fish we caught, the big one, that we froze. We ate from bowls again, of course. In the evening we had a marvelous sunset and then some more bumpy and rocky sailing through the night, luckily without the rain.

22th day – 21th December
The morning was sunny, but windy and the waves even got bigger. No one got much sleep in the night, but since we are only 100 miles away from Antigua, we will get enough sleep soon. In the night we tried to slow down the sailing, to be able to get to Jolly Harbor in the morning on Thursday, to avoid entering the port in the dark. It didn't really happen, there was to much wind and the ride was even bumpier at lower speed. So we are expecting to be there between midnight and 3 in the morning. We changed the route to avoid any reef or rock in wide circle to get there safe even in the dark. We are all eager to see the land again and return to civilization and the mood is good and faces happy. Today we saw more birds, even a frigatebird, which means land is close. We ate veal stew with pasta, from the bowls again of course. We are keeping the watch system till the landfall, although we will probably be all out on the deck the whole evening, not to miss anything. Champagne for celebration is already getting cold in the fridge.

23th day – 22st December
The evening and the night were bumpy and windy, with some rain here and there. Keeping watch was a hard work. At about 2 in the morning we were approaching Jolly Harbor and the rain came down with full force. We didn't find good place for anchoring, so we proceeded into the harbor and tied the boat on the side of fueling station. We stayed up another hour and have a drink, and afterwards we went to bed. In the morning we moved the boat to customs dock and went through all the procedures required for entering Antigua. And then we had breakfast and pina colada, that we've been dreaming of the entire journey.

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