Well, we made it all the way to St Lucia, crossing the finish line at 2028 GMT/UT (1628 local time). We were surprised and touched to be welcomed over the finish line to the strains of Enya singing Caribbean Blue over the VHF radio - A brilliant and very thoughtful gesture from the WCC crew manning the boat forming part of the finish line - So, many thanks again to them. The only sad thing is that we motored quite a bit over the last couple of days, due a forecast predicting no wind until Monday, which turned out to be only partly accurate, as seems to be the case. However, the main thing is that we are here safe and sound, with no really significant problems along the way.
I ended my last post by saying that the wind speed was less than forecast, but things changed quite significantly into Tuesday evening and overnight. We had a chat on the VHF radio with Maunie of Ardwall, a Vancouver 38 Pilot, who were a few miles north and east of us. They had started on more of a middle route course before heading south, only to find the same calm weather as us, where they had motored for 12 hours. Soon afterwards, a long, narrow squall passed close by, less than a mile away, and we benefitted from a little extra wind associated with it, but the wind then started to pick up and become more variable in direction. We soon had sustained wind speeds of 25 to 30 knots and decided to reef both sails before they got even stronger. We were glad we had done so when they rose further, to sustained speeds of 25 to 35 knots, with occasional gusts of just over 40 knots (all apparent wind speeds), and the seas began to build. Unfortunately, once well reefed, we were actually going slightly slower than we would have liked! However, we passed our three quarters distance milestone just before 0100 and carried on like this overnight, putting out more genoa at 0200 and more again at 0400, as the wind speeds eased, and we put the full mainsail back out at 1000, when daylight arrived.
Wednesday started cloudy and got brighter as the day went on. The day was fairly uneventful as we continued to roll along at reasonable speed on the increased swell. Our noon to noon log mileage was 152 (again), an unspectacular average of just over six knots. Alan took more Sun sights and I managed to take some of Jupiter during evening twilight. The water maker stalled when it was turned on for the evening run, but we left dealing with the problem until the following morning. We reefed the mainsail again, as a precaution against strong winds overnight, but they didn’t go much above 25 knots (apparent).
Thursday started mainly clear, with just some scattered clouds. I did a compass check, using Polaris, and managed to take some sights of Venus during morning twilight. We put the full mainsail back out at daylight and passed a small French yacht, not taking part in the ARC, which was sailing from the Cape Verde Islands to Martinique. We continued to roll along over the swells, maintaining a reasonable, if not spectacular, speed. Our noon to noon log mileage was 166, an average of just under seven knots, slightly better than yesterday. We also continued to benefit from quite a significant current, pushing us along towards our final destination. Quite a bit of effort was required to access the mechanicals of the water maker, as they are tucked away, well out of normal reach. However, the problem seemed to be caused by an air lock, which was probably due to sucking air into the water inlet when we rolled over some of the big swells. This was resolved and the water maker is now running smoothly again, so showers are available once more. The forecast predicted reasonable wind until tomorrow (Friday) evening. However, the wind started to fall during the course of this evening and fell away almost completely overnight, leaving us going nowhere fast, with the sails cracking as we rolled over every swell and wave. All in all, a very frustrating night!
At 1000 (dawn) on Friday, we still had around 350 miles to go, with no wind and none forecast until Monday evening. Alan, James and I decided to go for a swim off the back of the boat, which was great! The water was over 26 degrees Centigrade and the nearest land was just over two miles away, straight down! Having showered and dried off, we accepted the inevitable, took in the genoa, sheeted in the mainsail and started the engine at 1100. It is a disappointing and frustrating way to end the trip, especially after having sailed for seventeen days, including two days and three nights of calm, already. However, we had to accept that we couldn’t beat the weather and ran the engine at 1,400 RPM, in Gori propeller “overdrive”, giving us around 7 knots through the water and almost 8 knots over the ground. Our noon to noon log mileage was only 97, an average speed of just four knots. We caught up with Sterre again in the late afternoon and, remembering that they had said they were fairly low on fuel for motoring in, offered them our reserve cans of diesel. They were keen to have them, so we embarked upon our own ship to ship replenishment exercise, in long rolling swells. This went very smoothly, with Alan masterminding operations on the foredeck and me on the helm. Contrary to the forecast, the wind picked up enough from the north west to allow us to sail, so James and I brought in the spinnaker pole, unfurled the genoa and set off on a starboard tack at just over six knots, giving the engine a rest and a chance to cool down. It was also much more pleasant for us, coasting along over the long swells, into a beautiful, warm evening and we did a compass check, using the setting Sun. This was all very nice while it lasted, but the wind died again around 2300, so Fred restarted the engine, halfway through his watch, and we motored all night at 1500 rpm in Gori propeller “normal” drive, giving a speed of around six knots. The only notable event was that I had to change the bulb in the starboard navigation light.
I managed to take sights of Venus and Sirius in the twilight of Saturday morning, which started as another bright, warm, clear day with only a few scattered clouds and virtually no wind. We also did another compass check, using the rising Sun this time. The sea started to go glassy and wind failed to pick up during the day, which turned out to be fairly uneventful, other than the fact that we ran out of both apple juice and blackcurrent cordial at the same time, meaning that all future ice lollies will have to be orange. Our noon to noon log mileage was 152, an average speed of just over six knots. Alan and I took more Sun sights at various times during the day and Alan, Andrew and James blew up the large fenders that had been deflated for more convenient storage on passage. As happened last night, the wind picked up slightly later in the evening, just enough for us to be able to sail at around four knots, which gave the engine (and us) a break. We picked up Rally email advisories regarding three yachts with various problems. Two were some way behind us; one had suffered a variety of damage and minor crew injuries in a squall and the other was down to just fifteen litres of diesel and was running low on water. The third boat was some miles ahead of us and has lost its propeller. Surprisingly, the wind held up sufficiently for us to keep sailing overnight.
Just before twilight on Sunday morning, I got Alan up early so that we could take some star sights using Sandy’s sextant to add to our astro navigation portfolios. We managed to get Arcturus, Dubhe and Procyon (with a suspect sextant reading), before the clouds passed over, with Venus as a late bonus. Our noon to noon log mileage was 124, an average speed of just over five knots. Alan and I took morning and afternoon sun sights to complete our sets. When we had worked them through to the end of our final astro navigation plots, we both got fairly close at the end of the day. I was really pleased to get my final latitude spot on and my final longitude to within two miles. Alan wasn’t quite as accurate but he is still finalising his figures! At the very least it meant that we had arrived at the right island and were flying the correct courtesy flag! It had turned out to be another nice day and the wind held up reasonably well for most of it, allowing us to continue to sail at between four and six knots. It would have been nice to have been able to sail all the way to the finish, but that would probably have meant arriving in darkness and spending the night at anchor in the bay outside the marina. Some of us would have quite enjoyed this, with the opportunity for a swim in the morning before entering the marina. However, some of the crew particularly wanted to get into the marina this evening, so we motored from 1730 to ensure that we got to the finish line in time to enter the marina in daylight. We did put the sails back out at 2000, as we drew level with Pigeon Island, and we sailed around the point and over the finish line, having our photographs taken on the way. We were very surprised, and quite touched, to hear Enya singing Caribbean Blue over the VHF radio as we approached the finish line. This turned out to be the idea of the WCC crew on the boat forming part of the finish line. I had actually planned to have this song playing from the boat CD player as we came into the marina, but they beat us to it! Thanks very much again to them for their very thoughtful gesture, it really was quite touching. We logged 42 bmiles in the final eight and a half hours, an average speed of just under five knots. When we arrived in the marina, we were welcomed with glasses of iced rum punch and a basket containing a bottle of rum (which had completely disappeared by the time I got back to the boat later in the evening) and a selection of fresh fruit (which hadn’t) !!!!!
We are tied up on the end of a long pontoon, as far away from the shore security gate as it is possible to be. However, it should be very easy for us to take the boat out and in again should we decide to go out to anchor in the bay for a cool breeze and a swim. We are quite close to Ladore, our neighbours from Las Palmas, and we have invited them to join us for a meal aboard tomorrow night. Several of the boats that we talked to on the VHF radio are also close by and it has been good to meet the crews and put faces to the voices. I delayed checking in to the marina office and with customs and immigration until this morning, as these are all very bureaucratic and time consuming processes, complicated by the fact that four of the crew will be flying out from the island on three different dates, with only two of us leaving again on the boat.
Our trip took a total time of nineteen days eight and a half hours, an overall average of just over six knots (about seven miles per hour). We took a more southerly route than most of the two hundred odd other boats, in order to try to ensure more consistent trade winds. It is ironic that this was a particularly windy ARC and the northerly route actually had a lot of good winds throughout, allowing these boats to cover a slightly shorter distance in a much shorter time. However, a lot of them experienced too much wind at times and quite a number of the boats here have suffered varying degrees of damage to spars, rigging and sails. There have been broken and damaged masts and booms, broken spinnaker poles and ripped or blown out sails. We have just seen a very expensive Parasailor laid out with the entire top section shredded. However, these consistent and strong winds allowed them to finish before the unusual period of calm that caught us and a number of other boats who were still a few days out of St Lucia, increasing our times even more in comparison.
The direct distance from Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, to Rodney Bay, St Lucia, is 2,668 miles “as the crow flies”. According to our GPS, the minimum distance that we should have covered in order to sail our chosen route would have been 2,889 miles. However, we actually sailed further than this direct track, because we had to sail “off the wind” for a lot of the time, but the currents flowing in our favour more than made up for for this extra distance and we ended up with a logged mileage of “only” 2,837. Unfortunately, we do not have figures in relation to the first 2,000 miles logged, but the currents helped us to the extent of 81 miles over and above the last 837 covered per the log. The total logged mileage is now 5,443 since leaving Troon at the beginning of July, being the sum of 1,726 from Troon to Lagos, 880 from Lagos to Las Palmas and 2,837 from Las Palmas to St Lucia.