Resolute of Thames - The Final Night At Sea
Really impossible to believe that there is some land with our name on somewhere in the distance. We have 2 other yachts on the horizon..but one is not an ARC yacht....no details of the other one yet...you will know of course from your yellow brick screen. Sorry to keep you all waiting for our arrival and know we aren't going very fast at the moment. The swell is not to be messed with and there are also squalls around which increases our wind speeds++ so trying to keep a steady course under headsail and the sweet little trysail which to my knowledge has never had an outing since we have had ROT. With the mainsail poorly little trysail is hanked onto the mast but has 2 sheets into the cockpit and she helps to keep us a little more stable in the swell...every little helps. The plan tonight was to gybe back and forth across the rhumb line as we can't sail directly down it. However, at dusk we had done with it so with 100 miles to go the engine has, at last, gone on for some propulsion. Therefore, dear reader, this is our last night at sea and, other than a perfunctory.." we crossed the finish line at x o'clock local time".. you will not hear from us again on this log. For those readers who are following this out of concern for our safety or sanity you can just read the next paragraph and skip to the final 2 paragraphs. For those, perhaps working towards following in our wake, below are the skipper rather doubty thoughts on the biggest challenge / biggest success of the adventure. Take a deep breath before proceeding and remember that until tonight he had only motored about 10 miles.
The journey from Cape Verde has taken us 19 days. However, we took a dive south to try and get around the chaos caused by a disturbance to the trade winds. The dive came a little too late and was not bold enough so the middle third of the journey was hard work and slow.
The biggest challenge, other than the disruption to the trade winds, has been power generation. We are a power hungry boat. There is a fridge with a very old compressor, a more modern small deep freeze, SSB (which OK needs volts as well as amps), a Sat C plus the normal navigation instruments. Downwind our Ampair did not stand a chance. We accepted that the engine needed to be on to make water or transmit well on the SSB and we therefore found ourselves running the engine in idle for 2-3 hours per day and that is with 160 amps worth of alternators strapped to the engine and a 400 amp hour domestic battery bank. With hindsight either a generator and large capacity 240 volt charging box or something towed would have been more efficient plus a larger battery bank. We took about 300 litres of diesel but always maintained it was for power generation and emergencies - that is until we are within motoring distance of land.
The biggest success has been the hydrovane. Our confidence in Harriet has grown by the day and with hindsight I would say that our earlier, less than satisfactory, impressions were due entirely to me failing to comprehend the sensitivity of the vane angle and the relationship between vane angle and the power setting. This coupled with the complexity of altering course (which string do you pull and by how much?) made it difficult to explore exactly how it should work. The addition of a tell tail on the vane (so you can see the wind angle relative to the vane), some reflective tape on the wheel that changes the wind angle (so you can see how much you are changing course) and marking one of the bits of string (so you know which one to pull to turn to port or starboard) has taken all of the guess work out of setting her up. That just leaves trimming the sails - which is a must.
With just Gilly-mate and I on board we have kept the rig simple. For downwind sailing; in strong winds genoa and second headsail (No1 Jib), in lighter winds main (with a big foreguy/preventer on the END of the boom) and poled out genoa. We only have one pole so flew the second headsail free. The only time we suffered was during the middle third when the cruising chute would undoubtedly have made the difference between being stopped and doing a knot, but here there is an effort versus return argument. We can ride out most squalls just by shortening the headsail (a one person operation) but for every squall and there were plenty, fancy fabric needs to come down (a 2 person operation) and we were just not prepared to have our sleep mucked up to that extent. With 550nm to go and feeling the call of that rum punch too strongly we ran the main and headsail combination in force 4 squally conditions - inevitable result - tear in main.
A brief word on communication. The SSB / Airmail combination has been outstanding - providing you understand the basics of HF radio propagation (buy a book, put on an anorak and get to grips with it - otherwise you waste lots of amps trying to make impossible links). The Sat C has provided a good back up for those few occasions when instant messaging has been required. The Sat C also has 2 other advantages. Firstly, Safetynet - a NAVTEX service for the middle of oceans and secondly a guaranteed live link ashore to an MRCC of your choice, for free, in the event of an emergency.
Before closing I would like to address the question we have been asked repeatedly on the way down to the Canaries - why are you doing this voyage with ARC and not independently? Well for lots of reasons:
1. This is Part One of our (early) retirement plan. Part 2 is to cruise the Caribbean. The whole WCC package has been invaluable in changing the boat from an offshore vessel into one capable of double handed ocean passage making. At one level the idea of having one's boat inspected seems invasive in the extreme on the other it makes one take an objective look at what you do and how you do it. The ideas in their hand book and the links they have with medical insurers, boat insures etc gave me pointers which made putting together the whole package to support us during our time away much more straightforward - especially as we prepared for this trip whilst living in Norway. Why re-invent the wheel?
2. The yellow brick system and this log allows friends and family to be part of the adventure in a way they have not been able to be up to now.
3. The comaraderie of our fellow entrants. Both in harbour and on the radio every day. With just the 2 of us it is quite simply good to speak to an outsider every other day - especially one who is going through the same frustrations as you.
4. The general support provided by the WCC team. In 4 days in Cape Verde we saw more of the islands than we would have done in a week or two on our own. We did not have to clear in or out, they had done all of the ground work for the tours and we had a guaranteed berth etc. Added to that is the continued prompt back-up of the Rally Support Team whilst we have been at sea. The whole organisation is one which the boss Andrew Bishop should be rightly proud.
Will we do another Rally? - yep, wouldn't hesitate - I suspect we will be on either ARC Panama or, more likely, ARC Europe to head back to dear old Blighty in 2015.
So, how to sum up our epic adventure? It has been a huge challenge and very hard at times when, with just the two of us, sleep deprivation is factored in. We are uncertain whether this has been typical from a weather perspective and suspect not, but the somewhat difficult conditions this year have left us occasionally, at times feeling utterly helpless and frustrated but fortunately never both at the same time! In our modern lives we are simply never at the mercy of the elements in the way that you are on a 41 foot boat in the middle of an ocean. This is not just too much wind, not enough is if anything, even more frustrating. On the plus side it has stretched us and affirmed our suspicion that you can indeed do anything if you push yourself and rise to the challenge. As a couple and team it has strengthened us and taught us even more definitively that the key is to compromise and make allowances, love and laugh! If nothing else this trip will give us endless anecdotes and photographs with which to bore our grandchildren and help us to remember, in our dotage, that we were once capable of doing something adventurous, brave and out of the ordinary.