Well, we started two days later than planned but are now approximately one quarter of the way to St Lucia, having had fairly steady trade winds of 20 to 30 knots, occasionally gusting to more than 40 knots, from a generally north easterly direction.
The Tuesday start was a very much more condensed and low key affair from the point of view of any spectators. Las Palmas is a very busy port and had been closed for two hours on the Sunday for the original start, the line for which was actually some way down from the port, off the old town, and was only taken by about 30 boats. However, on Tuesday, the port was only to be closed for half an hour, to allow two hundred boats to start from between the ends of the main breakwaters! This meant that all boats only had one hour to leave the marina and take the start line on the gun at 1100. There was a good, strong wind and quite large waves just to make things even more exciting.
We had decided not to get involved in the rush to the start, rather to leave the marina between 1030 and 1045 and just keep out of the way. However, the yacht alongside us left early and it seemed easier for us to leave next so that it would be easier for each to leave in turn (and Alan seemed a bit impatient to get out there). We joined the queue to get out of the marina and just motored slowly down towards the start line as a lot of others charged about under power and/or sail.
We found a convenient space near the middle, turned upwind, got the mainsail out with ten minutes to go, the genoa out with five minutes to go, folded the propeller, stopped the engine and made for the start line at full speed, surrounded by other boats, all trying to do the same. We were amongst the first twenty boats to cross the line, two of which turned out to have jumped the start and so incurred a three hour time penalty! It was almost as exciting as the start of a go kart race!
We had elected from the outset to take the more conservative southerly route, as opposed to the northerly or middle ones. This is about 150 miles longer but should provide the prospect of more favourable currents and more reliable trade winds. It should also keep us below the worst of any adverse weather that may develop. Interestingly, we think that only six other yachts have taken this route, but there is now some potential bad weather developing further ahead to the north, so it remains to be seen how many of the others change their minds and head further south to join us.
The wind would have been right behind us, had we tried to sail the direct course towards the Cape Verde Islands, so we have done several long legs at about 30 degrees off the wind, and are now fairly close to the islands, leaving them to our south. We are now just over 700 miles (as the crow flies) from Las Palmas but have logged 750 miles (through the water) due to sailing off the wind. As we finally head more towards our ultimate destination there is just over 2,100 miles to go (again, as the crow flies), although it remains to be seen how many miles we will actually have to sail to get there. We are planning to try a few different sail configurations in order to minimise any extra miles.
Given the good winds that we have benefited from, the resultant waves have been quite large and lumpy, causing a variety of problems on board. Although Enya is a fairly large and heavy boat, we are being bounced around quite a bit and two of the crew continue to suffer from occasional seasickness. Sleep deprivation is another consequence, for some of us, at least! One of the crew can sleep through almost anything and at anytime, anywhere. Another can sleep through anything, but only at certain times, not always coinciding with his off-watch periods. (Names withheld, but some of you will know who I mean!) The rest of us are struggling to get a decent spell of sleep when we are off watch. It has also finally started to get a bit warmer, now that we are in the Tropics, which means that the forward cabins get quite warm and stuffy, which makes sleeping even more difficult!
Life on board has set into some sort of a routine. We are running watches in pairs, 2 hours on and 4 hours off. Most of the off-watch time is spent trying to sleep, other than from around 10am to 6pm, when people are often just up and around to enjoy some daylight. We are sticking to GMT for the crossing, so dawn and dusk get slightly later each day, as we head further west. The Canaries are at 15 degrees west, so should be 1 hour behind GMT, but choose to run on GMT. St Lucia is at 60 degrees west and runs 4 hours behind GMT. We will therefore “gain” an extra four hours when we finally adjust our clocks and watches after arrival, which may all be used catching up on lost sleep!
We aim to have our evening meal shortly before dark each night, but another consequence of the rough seas is that no one appears to have their normal appetite. We have masses of food on board, but we are only managing to get through it at a surprisingly slow rate so far.
The only significant equipment problem that we have encountered so far is with our SSB (long range) radio, which has started showing “ERROR” for no obvious reason and, needless to say, the manual sheds no light on this problem. This is particularly annoying as we had the aerial cable and connections replaced in Las Palmas at no small expense. Unfortunately, it prevents us from participating in the daily SSB Radio Net, where groups of boats can talk to one another, which is supposed to be good fun. At least we still have our VHF (short range) radio and sat.phone (for calls and weather emails).
This afternoon, Alan and Alasdair provided the entertainment for the rest of us when Alan was taking his Sun sights, with Alasdair scribing for him. There was an initial lack of communication, which led to some confusion followed by raised voices, but they got there in the end. Alan has now taken a quite a number practice Sun and Moon sights, whilst I have only taken a few Sun sights so far, mainly just to confirm Alan’s figures, which were causing him some problems to start with. We will have to get down to it in earnest soon and work up some proper fixes. It is certainly not easy getting an accurate sight when you are being bounced up and down on a fairly random basis!
This episode was followed by the good news that Alan’s daughter Katherine had given birth to a second baby daughter (still to be named), a sister for Isla. All on board Enya (a nice name?) send their congratulations and very best wishes to Katherine, Alex, Isla and, of course, the new baby.
We celebrated this happy news with Andrew’s speciality Chicken Cacciatora for our evening meal and have just settled down into Saturday night’s watch routine.