Saturday, 31 December 2016
Position 16 41.787N 54 26.048W 13.30GMT
Just before dawn Niall was on watch and saw the first ship for about 10 days. Called the SeaBiscuit, we wondered if it was a luxury yacht with a horse racing owner. I called on VHF and wished them Happy New Year. Turned out it was a 200 m long cargo ship heading for New Orleans.
It's peaceful being alone on deck for the 6-9am watch, whilst the other three sleep peacefully below. The sky lightens a long time before the sun rises when the sky is clear. Flying fish scoot across the waves as we thunder down a big swell. I ate my muesli in bliss, eyes alert for any whales, soaking in the rosy dawn. Then two white tailed tropic birds joined me, circling overhead, long white tail feathers streaming in the wind.
Yesterday we saw no whales, but Kyle fished as usual. However he was shocked to lose the line and tackle again to something powerful. To bring in a big fish we really need to slow down rather than roaring along at 7-8 knots. However we had poled out the Genoa so that we could aim more directly downwind to Antigua, and turning to windward to slow down is more involved. So next the Watamu Yoyo was deployed with its very strong line and steel tracer. Not long later that lure had gone too and so had the teaser, an orange fish that splashes along on the surface, its wire snipped through by very big teeth we suppose.
We have now eaten all the last big dorado, cooked four ways over three days. Absolutely delish fish!
We had new signs of life yesterday with 20 metre-long strings of sea weed undulating over the swell. Mark captured some, and It seems to be like sea holly, with thin serrated leaves and tiny green-brown air-filled berries which provide the buoyancy.
Ahead we have 2017 and in four more days, Antigua. It will be a strange transition from endless cycle of watches as we race across the ocean, eating, sleeping, fixing boat issues, doing crossword puzzles, sketching or reading. Mark practicing the ukelele.......I need to do the same. Questions that we can't answer can't be Googled, the news is only just accessible through the crackle and whine of BBC World Service on the long range radio, but it doesn't seem worth worrying about. In this strange limbo we approach 2017, wondering what it will hold.
Best wishes to everyone for a HAPPY NEW YEAR from Paul, Mark, Kyle and Niall aboard TinTin
Thursday, 29 December 2016
29 December 2016 17 57.67N 50 08.38W 16:30 GMT-3
Every 15 degrees that we travel westwards our sunrise gets later and later.
So when we reached 45 degrees west of Greenwich I put ship's time back a other hour so that we are 3 hours behind GMT, which means that sunrise is back to 06:45 and sunset is 17:30 ish.
Yesterday we had a wonderful encounter with a whale which looked about 4-5 metres long, and had a greenish brown tinge. We could see a small dorsal fin and a white flipper. Attempts at photography were made both above and below water, but we didn't get a really good look at it. Studying our whale book we deduced it was a minke whale because of the white flippers.
It seemed to follow us discreetly for ages.
Then today at breakfast we gybed to head SW and soon found that we had whale company again. But this time there were three Minkes, and they seemed very relaxed and inquisitive.. We furled the Genoa and hove to and, almost stationary rolling in the big swell, we had an extraordinary hour or so with our companions, and managed to get some very beautiful video in the clear blue water.
We also had brief visits from Wilson's petrel, Cory's shearwater and a tropic bird. The sea has more debris in it. Yesterday we passed a big black ship's fender, and a red milk bottle crate. Then today we saw a few bits of bladder wrack seaweed, the first so far, and just now a tennis ball. You can tell it's exciting out here! The puzzle is that the North a Equatorial current which is meant to be pushing us west at 0.5-1.5knots appears to be running north or south at different places. So debris mostly is blowing westwards, but the current may bring the seaweed from somewhere else.
Meanwhile Mark has got full capacity out of the watermaker so I can now allow everyone a brief shower. Having said that we stripped off on deck this morning to get a fresh water wash in a tropical rainstorm. The other problem of the engine battery appears to have been resolved too, so all is well.
Tuesday, 27 December 2016
We had tropic birds occasionally visit us and all tried to get photos. Certainly we had red-billed tropic birds, but also one with black shoulders and a yellow beak that was likely a white tailed tropic bird.
Last night the calm seas were deceptive as big rainstorms crept up and suddenly delivered a gale and pouring rain. On the radar they looked like bright red blobs coming to get us. On night watch I saw a strange light flash periodically near Cursa, a star near Rigel in the Orion constellation. Not an aircraft, as it held station for 15 minutes. Not a low earth satellite as they pass quickly. Just possibly a geostationary satellite, but these are 36,000 km away and they don't normally flash. So rather a puzzle!
The light winds continued this morning and we had another slow day being pushed north. Kyle and Niall got out the GoPro camera and got some great underwater footage in Bombay Sapphire blue water and bright sunshine. When we played them through on the computer the last shot recorded sounds like Dolphins clicking. At that point Mark yelled from the deck as a whale had just passed alongside. We rushed up but missed it. If only we had kept filming a little longer!
Kyle was disappointed yesterday by a big dorado that took his line and ran it straight out of the reel, but then today, as the sun was setting, he got another beauty a meter long and 7kg in weight. This time I brought the boat to a stop and hove to so that he could reel it in successfully.
The wind suddenly picked up after dark and we are now sailing fast in the right direction. However we now have a new puzzle to fix. The engine has insufficient electrical supply to start, despite having a new engine battery fitted in Tenerife. Fortunately we have a few days to trace the problem.
Sunday, 25 December 2016
Saturday, 24 December 2016
We had a lovely sunny day, as always amazed by the size of the big following blue seas topped with white foam, and often pale green blue at the crest where the sun shines through. Red-billed tropic birds are regular visitors which circle us briefly and then examine our foaming wake for food before heading south.
We have settled in to the process of running the boat, delivering meals on time and reading or fishing. Mark and I each spent an hour nursing the watermaker and achieved about 70 litres. Water rationing is on hold for a bit longer.
Mark erected a little Christmas tee on the aft deck and we listened to crackly broadcast of cars from Kings o. The radio. Then we had a sunset party with gin& tonic and nibbles before. Supper and delved into the Christmas box happily unwrapping false beards, games, seashore patty lights and miniature buckets and spades. All thanks to Anne!
Then as Mark produced supper Niall and Kyle spotted a pilot whale!
Finally we tested our satellite phone and managed a Christmas message or two. Now we are on night watch hoping that Santa will shin down our mast tonight
Friday, 23 December 2016
Kyle then got his fishing rod out and managed to get the line wound into the wind generator. This resulted in some risky balancing acts, whilst fully clipped on of course, which eventually got the mess sorted out. His rod is now deployed to port :-)
Mark not feeling well unfortunately. We are being vigilant about hygiene to avoid it spreading.
Water usage is a issue. Our 600 litre tanks are enough for each person to have 10 litres per day for two weeks. Yet usage has been double that figure. This is not a problem if the watermaker functions well as we can produce 60-90 litres an hour while the generator runs. But although it has been working OK up till now, yesterday it wouldn't. Today Kyle helped me to investigate, and we found the primary pump wasn't working. This turns out to be a failure of a transformer which delivers 12 volts. Fortunately the deck wash pimp is in the same compartment, and we managed to plumb that in. However the system did not run smoothly and although I sat hunched up in the forepeak for an hour twiddling the knobs to coax it along I think we only made 30-40 litres. So I have to institute water rationing until we can reliably top up the tanks.
Back on deck for tea and Stollen and the treat of seeing several individual red-billed tropic birds circle us and then head off south.
Thursday, 22 December 2016
A few hours later..... we found there is still seepage but maybe not so much.
We crossed tracks with a ship and logged Tin Tin's 7000th mile at midday.
However midday is not what it used to be. I shifted ship's time from GMT to 2 hours earlier as we have come 300 miles west of Cabo Verde. I have also changed the watch rota so that each person has 3 hours on and 9 hours off. We had been doing 4 on and 4 off in pairs till now. The new crew are now trusted to handle their watch solo!
Imam sat in glorious sunshine on the aft deck with beautiful blue sky blue sea and blue flying fish around me as we make up tri 12 knots westwards.
Wednesday, 21 December 2016
Today we managed 180 miles in 24 hours. The wind has eased a bit but is forecast to rise again.
Our position at 19:30 21/12/16 is 17 08N 28 17.5W on the direct Great Circle route to Antigua.
Setting a triple reefed mainsail and full Genoa we roared out of the harbour past the various wrecks and into the channel between São Vicente and São Antao. Big seas rolling down and wind a steady 35 knots, but nonetheless it felt comfortable and I felt very happy and relieved to be setting off at last.
We soon passed the French boat, Vedrouille, we had seen earlier and spoke on the radio. They are a family with six year old on board heading to Martinique.
The mountains either side are so dramatic and to my joy several Tropic birds flew past with their long pair of white tail feathers streaming in the gale it's their breeding season and I'd been surprised that we'd not seen them or the Magnificent Frigate birds.
Mark produced an exceptional chicken balti with all the trimmings as night fell and we rounded the southern tip of São Antao and headed due West to the Caribbean.
Saturday, 17 December 2016
The moon was full and despite the veil of cloud, it lit the sea well so that one could see the waves rear up behind one. By early morning we were running along the southern coast of Sao Nicolau and its mountainous spine was clearly visible in the silver glow. As we rounded the southern-most point the sea shallowed abruptly from 3000 metres to just 100 and if the full swell had still been with us it could well have broken like surf, but we rounded it OK and hardened up to the north towards the port of Tarafal seven miles on. Here we finally dropped anchor in calm water under great cliffs, to the sound of a cockerel heralding the dawn! Once we were happy that the anchor would hold in the vicious squalls funnelling down from the peaks we turned in for a couple of hours of sleep.
Over breakfast we saw that the beach was a tumble of volcanic boulders and black sand. Buildings sprang from the same soil like unripe grey blocks, of which a relatively few mature ones had ripened into vibrant pinks, greens, blues and yellows. In front of us a huge canyon cut back into the mountain, it's alluvial fan dotted with buildings, built by people with so little experience of rain that they appeared to be unaware of the risk of being washed away by a hundred year cloud burst.
I took the opportunity to try sketching the view, and then we watched while a tug towed in a yacht that had apparently been dismasted. A frisson of interest went through all seven anchored yachts and cameras appeared, while squalls blasted spray out of the harbour surface. We had considered a trip ashore, but the need to get to Mindelo was pressing, and we would be required to fill entry forms at the harbour office, so we upped anchor and set off.
Along the south coast was smooth water with sudden squalls, and flying fish passing like plump guillemots. Soon we were out in the roaring sea again with good sized waves occasionally as high as the first spreaders on the mast. We found that the staysail and triple reefed mainsail was a good combination, and had a fantastic roaring sail in 40 knot winds for 50 miles along along the chain of islands to Mindelo, marvelling at the fantastic jagged skylines they presented. Despite the waves breaking over the cockpit I managed a couple of sketches to remind me of the dramatic views.
Sunset came at 19:08 and we eventually turned down the channel to Mindelo in heavy seas and pitch black conditions, cutting inside the rock, Ilheu dos Passaros, guarding the entrance and into a more sheltered bay full of anchored freighters. Amongst these were many anchored yachts and we found a good spot clear of all to drop anchor in 5 metres, letting out 35 metres of chain in order to secure ourselves in the gale.
Mark made a curry and we watched " Where Angels Fear to Tread" the title of which appealed to us after our adventure today. Tomorrow we meet Anne, Beccy, Kyle, Niall and the children and will get on with provisioning do the Atlantic crossing.
Thursday, 15 December 2016
Two hours later they had finally escaped the melded of visa queues and luggage mix ups, and we set off to their accommodation in Villa ao Mar at the southern tip of the island. I must say that I was impressed with the beachside apartment and the little town itself was most congenial and not overdeveloped. I would certainly come here again for a winter beach break.
I stayed the night, while Mark guarded the boat, and then the next day everyone Trekker to Palmeira for lunch before Mark and I set off for Our next rendezvous in Mindelo.
The wind was now a full gale with 40 knots raising sand into the air. Mark had put a rope snubber on the anchor chain to stop it snatching, but it had snapped. He dived successfully to pick up the hook and severed line before we set off.
I'm now on watch at 23:00 halfway across the 70+ miles to Sao Nicolau. The wind is still a full gale blowing 35-45 knots and the seas are large. Under Genoa alone we are making 8.5 - 11.5 knots. Once dawn breaks we aim to explore a new island and then push on the remaining 70 miles to Mindelo.
Wednesday, 14 December 2016
All day we sailed downwind I. force 6-7 towards Sal. Eventually I got fed up with tacking downwind and set a direct course, goose winging the Genoa. I produced lake soup and hrs dump,Inge for supper, and we watched the sun go down and the full moon rise while we ate. Just before sunset we had a visit from eight blunt headed short finned pilot whales, who gave us a quick once over before setting off to find their own supper. No frivolous dolphin playtime for them, mores the pity,
Finally at about eight pm we began too see evidence of the island of Sal. As th moon rose and illuminates the scene ahead it became evident that what we had thought of as a flat island was actually formed of several volcanic peaks. As we entered the channel between islands, and turned up to the wind we suddenly felt the full force of what we had been sailing info the last 5 days, and now inflatable wtR roared long at 9.5 knots.sc
Shortly afterward, at half past ten, with sails down we motored gingerly into Palmeira port, and found a spot to anchor amongst twenty other yachts. We toasted our 880 mile trip with a glas of rum, and reflected on the five and a half days it had taken to get here. Tomorrow we will deal with port clearance, and then meet Anne and Beccy et al.
Tuesday, 13 December 2016
We had two dolphin visits, the first of which was a group of 8-10 Atlantic spotted Dolphins which had new tricks to show. The waves had built up to impressive size so that we could see the Dolphins swimming just under the wave surface as it rolled towards us. Some of the group were leaping from high waves with a half twist to land with a loud smack in the water. Others had the trick of leaping out and tail smacking to make a loud slap. To my surprise I saw a small light brown shark amongst them, the first on this trip.
We tried to get video of the Dolphins, but as soon as I had the GoPro on a pole they shot off.
However it proved useful later when trying to investigate an annoying vibration in the rear cabin. Eventually we tracked it to the port rudder, and lowered the camera down to get a look at it. There we found a clump of reeds trapped between rudder and hull, tapping furiously as the water rushed past.
I have just come on watch at midnight and Mark reported seeing a blue light in the water earlier. The spotlight showed no reflections from liferaft or life jacket and it was consistent with an oceanographic buoy.
While we had supper the sun set and suddenly there was a shower of flying fish, one of which landed in the cockpit. It was about 9 inches long and I had difficulty grabbing it to get it back to the sea. Later Stuart was on watch and was pelted with fish, many of which are still on deck.
We are sailing a little to the east of our direct course, as this is dead downwind and uncomfortable to sail. With a steady Trade wind of 25 knots, gusting 30, we are making between 6.5-9 knots through the water. The Canaries current, which is meant to push us along has been ahead for much of the time, although now it is flowing across our track towards Africa. Our ETA at Sal is about midnight on 13th December, so there will be some tricky navigation getting into Palmeira amongst the wrecks and rocks.
The plan is to then complete port formalities, and put Stuart ashore as he flies home from there. With luck we will be able to meet up with Anne, Becky, Kyle, Elwin, Ion and Niall.
Monday, 12 December 2016
The moon had gone down leaving the night really dark. I was thrilled to see that the Southern Cross, or Crux, was clearly visible above the horizon. A glance astern showed The Plough or Big Dipper upside down, and pointing to the Pole Star. Our position is at 20 02.44 N and 20 30.93W at 07:00 as dawn lightens the sky and the stars are hidden.
Earlier I was on watch at about midnight engrossed in reading a book. I got up for a scan of the horizon to find a very brightly lit cruise ship just a mile away. Rather a shock after seeing nothing for days, and it is a reminder of how quickly things can appear over the horizon. I checked that we were going to pass clear, and then called the Aida Cara to check that they could see us on AIS. I was pleased to hear that was working fine, and that we were also visible on radar. It was rather nice to have a little chat with them as I watched the purple, blue and red flashing lights of their disco floor glide by.
Sunday, 11 December 2016
We are making good progress southwards, and passed the Tropic of Cancer at about 1am this morning. Our three hour watch rhythm has settled in and is working well, giving us all plenty of rest.
Last night was wonderful moonlight again with a few bright stars easily identifiable, but it wasn't until about 4am after moon set that it became dark enough to see the multitude of stars, and then some meteorites as well. When I came on watch I found Mark practising his ukelel and that spurred me on to follow suit. I've got as far as Twinkle Twinkle .....
This morning we started the watermaker which replenished our tanks, giving everyone the chance if a shower. We had three Dolphins visit us, and both Mark and Stuart saw turtles swim past. Wilson's petrel had been an occasional visitor, and to my astonishment I saw a small moth, 180 miles from Africa and heading south.
The barometer dropped from 1012 to 1008 this morning suggesting that stronger winds are due to arrive later.
Saturday, 10 December 2016
We breakfasted together in warm sunshine in the cockpit and the day has been absolutely perfect as we race along with a very peaceful motion. A couple of cargo ships appeared on our AIS chartplotter but at 10 miles I couldn't see them. One was a Chinese tanker heading to Singapore with an ETA on 14/1/17. By then I trust we will be with Kate and family in the Caribbean.
Bits of driftwood appeared intermittently. Mostly reddish sticks from reed beds, occasionally with a green shoot poking hopefully skywards. Mark saw a small white bird. Exciting stuff!
However last night I had a magical 3 hour watch from midnight with the moon blazing a path across the sea. I hard a few unusual wave sounds and soon saw the dark shapes of Dolphins. Over a period of an hour they kept coming from the west, leaping through the moonlight to play under our bow wave.
This voyage is almost perfect with steady wind, lovely temperature, and a kindly motion over the swell. However we have all been taking time to get our sea legs so there has been an uneasiness as we go about the tasks of navigating and making meals. Yesterday both Stuart and I succumbed briefly, but today are feeling on top of it all. Big smiles all round!
Friday, 9 December 2016
|Sketch from Pico Teide|
We left Tenerife on Thursday 8th and have now sailed 170 miles South. Atoll Feeling a Kittel qu'est, (errr... All feeling a little queasy!) but hoping to get our sea legs back soon. Today we had a welcome visit from exuberantly leaping Atlantic spotted dolphins. Later I spotted a big green turtle swim past. Sun is now setting and Mark is putting together couscous and ratatouille for supper.
Friday, 2 December 2016
|Putting a neck brace on a suspected spinal injury|
Days 5 & 6 dealt with lots of wound treatment, and a detailed practical using sterile procedures and proper equipment to learn to insert catheters.
|Ready to start with the sterile catheter kit|
At the end of Day 7 I am proudly able to inject sub-dermal anaesthetic and suture wounds neatly.
|My dressmaking skills are handy suturing wounds|