The Passage West.
La Palma to Grenada …or Barbados if we’ve had enough…Maybe Tobago… that’s looking pretty good too!!
What a lovely first day. Sun shining, wind at 10-14Kts, good sailing. We even managed 5 hours with the spinnaker up. Pegasus is going well, although we seem to be using quite a bit of power. I will look at that.
Its great to be back on board and find the rhythm again. We allowed ourselves a cooked breakfast of sausages and eggs when Louis finally woke up and enjoyed a day pottering about getting sorted. Amanda made Spaghetti Bolognaise for supper, which we all ate together at sunset and the boys went to bed at 7.30. After the allowances of the on shore existence I’m sure both boys will settle and enjoy the routing of life on board again…up at sunrise, bed at sunset.
Today, our second is quite different. Overcast, a little rainy and its back to jumpers. We do have good wind though, with 15-20kts NE giving us a steady 7-9kts goose winged, so we should make better mileage and get further SW and hopefully into some warmer weather.
Well the honeymoon is definitely over. Its now day 7 and we are about half way across the Atlantic at 18N 33W.
We’ve had a bit of a going over.
The weather picked up and for the past 3 days we’ve had pretty strong winds in the 25-45 knot range with 18-20 ft following seas. The first night was the worst. The forecast was for 25kts and as the wind increased so did our speed. …the log extract says it all.…
.”.What a night. Wind increased to 30, 35, then started into the 40's! not really replicated by the grb files or other forecasts!
big waves, short frequency. Regularly surfing at 17-20kts...not the sort of sailing i want to be doing 1000 miles from land with the family!
when started to see 40 kts, dropped the main in a hurry (we had 3 reefs in and I just smoked the halyard on a big surf) and now going along with staysail only at average 7....although when we get picked up we have hit 17 again! but not with the same feeling of no control.”
We are now much more comfortable with genoa and staysail up goosewinged headed down wind and wave…quite sustainable. I think we only have another 36 hours of this then we should be back into the 20-30 kt range.
This is the bit I really love. The big chess game. Looking at the data and working out where you want to be in 36, 48, 96 hours and trying to get there. Often the situation changes as you make progress sometimes the data is inaccurate.
You can sail for 96 hours to get into a weather pattern only for the whole story to change in the last 24 hours and you miss the gate. Its big picture stuff and I love it.
Either way, you are trying to keep the vessel and crew in a safe environment, making good speed and going in the right direction. If you can do all of these 3 your doing well.
Even though Pegasus is moving and banging around a bit life on board carries on. We broke out a couple of new DVD’s for the boys. The Incredibles has been a big hit as has Aladdin…thanks Granny.
The food has been excellent, and yesterday Amanda noticed that the Freezer was defrosting on the bottom level so we have had to cook some of our supplies.
Yesterday we enjoyed steak sandwiches for lunch and roast lamb, courgettes and garlic potatoes for dinner…quite extravagant. Usually we have sandwiches or cold meats cheese etc for lunch and dinner early with the boys. In the last week the menu has included roast chicken, calves liver salad and fresh Mahi Mahi.
We’ve been fishing but its not going too well. We caught a Mahi when the water temperature got above 70 degrees and I managed to get it in as we were only doing 7 kts.
I had a disaster with the big rod and lost all the line and lure as we had a bigger fish on and we just couldn’t slow the boat down, as at that point we still had the main up, and surfing at 10kts with a big fish on the line puts amazing strain on the equipment!.
I feel really quite upset as that fish will definitely die swimming around with 300m of 80lb line and a lure in its moth …not to mention the £70 of fishing gear in its gob!
Subsequently I have rigged a hand line with 100lb line on shot cord, leading to a main winch. We have had 2 good strikes but not landed one yet. Again the waves and Pegasus gliding down the face of them is making it really quite difficult. Hopefully we will have better luck when the sea quietens off a little.
Its Dawn on Sunday morning and we promised the boys a party when we started heading west in earnest, so today we will have a pirate party to celebrate.
We’ve made Pirate party hats and we will have party food and cakes play some music and probably a game or two.
In reality it’s the expectation over a few days, making party hats and food etc that’s really good for the boys. The party will only last an hour if that, but we’ve had at least 4 hours of entertainment in anticipation not to mention their excitement.
Lets hope for quieter seas, sunshine and more fish., all of which we should get next week as we get closed to our destination….. the Caribbean.
A Few stats for the boys
Our daily mileage taken from 0700UTC on the day we departed 8th Dec through to 0700 UTC Sunday 14th
151nm, 187nm,183nm, 205nm, 204nm,178nm…on our 7th day.
The Passage West. “The Middle Bit”
So this is what a trade wind passage is all about!
For the last 4 days we’ve had glorious weather.
Steady winds from the East at 20-25 Kts, double headsails no main. Really well balanced so that there is little pressure on the rig, auto helm and crew. Ok so there are always squall clouds at dusk, and the early evening is pretty dark, but after a few hours the moon is out and all seems well.
This is the sort of sailing you dream about. Enough wind to surf at 12-14kts on occasion 16 to keep the excitement, but plenty of hours of steady 8-10 kts in glorious sunshine and not too much swell banging the boat around.
When the swell breaks under her, Pegasus is really quite noisy and the whole boat shakes and moves as the power of the waves traverse through her. It always amazes me that big structures…..bridges , skyscrapers etc have so much movement when made from principally rigid materials. Pegasus is the same and she moves, shudders and creaks as she is pushed around by the breaking swell. This can be quite unnerving at times, but I think were now getting used to it, although it always makes me jump and think the worst for an instant. I think sometimes it scares poor Louis, although JJ seem not to notice
The steady sailing has allowed us more of a family time….the first we’ve had really since arriving in the UK back in July.
Amanda and the boys have been busy preparing Christmas. The play bunk looks like Santa’s grotto, and we have fairy lights and a starry ceiling in the pilot house…now I understand what all those Ikea essentials were!
We have all been making decorations for the tree, and today we moved the tree from the dinghy and set it up in the port side saloon. We all had a fun afternoon decorating the tree, and the boys have started stripping the sweets and decorations from it already. I wonder how long it will last inside. The tree is the top of a small pine tree from the temperate zone in La Palma, so may not like the heat.
So we have the tree, the decorations are up the icing is on the cake and the “Santa Stop Here” sign is up in the window…were all set.
Bananas, yes we have Bananas. The huge stem we picked up in La Palma has, oh so suddenly, ripened off so we have quite a few that are ready to eat. Louis must have eaten a dozen today alone, and it hasn’t dented the supply. I’m sure we will have some on our arrival…coals to Newcastle?….. definitely.
The fishing has also improved and we have now landed 2 Mahi Mahi, although I seem to be keeping up my form by loosing them. I must have lost 4 good fish since I last wrote. Oh well, I’m sure my fortune will change and look forward to a good size Tuna, although with the water temp now at 80 degrees it may well be too warm…not fussy, will accept a Wahoooooo!
Its great to be back in warm water. There’s nothing more refreshing than a bucket of water over someone’s head to raise the spirits. I joke with JJ and he and I throw water around in the afternoons, and Louis usually gets a side swipe which makes him squeal.
Standing on the nets in the sunshine pouring buckets of water over yourself is totally refreshing, and in a funny way there’s something very liberating about it…I’m not sure what!.
The boys have settled down well. They play together, JJ winds Louis up, Louis winds JJ up and they both make a lot of noise and mess. Amanda, and to a lesser extent myself spend a lot of time cleaning up after them and servicing their needs…. juice, milk, food, nappies, DVD on, games, more clearing up…etc. Were lucky if in a day we have 10 minutes together away from the demands of the Boys.
In the evening its different, but the domestic machine can only operate if we both have enough sleep and time for reflection,. I have total peace, just Pegasus and myself, from 8pm through 1am, and Amanda has peace from 1am to 5am. Saying that, during the rough weather Louis has been sleeping anywhere Amanda is, so she hasn’t been getting the solitude at night, which is an important part of being offshore.
As we head west we are loosing one hour every 15 degrees, so the boys are getting up earlier…but don’t seem to be going to bed any earlier!!.
Louis usually appears at about 5am to do his night watch, followed by JJ half an hour later.
A night watch for the boys consists of getting under the blanket on the Banquette in the pilot house and kicking each other. After half an hour or so I can usually break this up with the offer of Breakfast …wheatabix or croissants.
It is now less that a thousand miles to Grenada, and I’m working out our approach.
It looks like the wind will go light and slightly north over the next two days then increase to 20+ kts for a day or two as we approach land. Yesterday I decided to head more south and reached SW at 10 + kts in 15Kts breeze. This means I can now reach north of west in the lighter airs maintaining a good speed, putting us upwind and wave for our approach to the southern end of Grenada.
I have a small concern that the wind and Waves from the NW will be opposed to the North flowing current which could increase the wave action as we approach land and the shelf where the Atlantic seabed rises to form the plate on which Grenada sits. This is potentially a bad sea situation but it shouldn’t last more than a few miles and I’m sure if I pick the point where we transit the shelf it shouldn’t be too bad…. ETA Prickly bay 24/12….I hope.
A few Stats for the interested.
Our daily mileage from day 7 to day 10.
178nm, 183nm, 177nm, 186nm.
The Passage West. “The End Bit”
Were Here. Great, just in time for Christmas and New Year!!
The last part of the passage was eventful with changing winds giving fast and slow sailing days, and occasional shipping…. which is always a shock especially when you look up and there’s a ship only 2 miles away!!. It always amazes me that the one ship you pass in a week is always on a collision course and avoiding action is usually necessary.
The wind eased for 2 days and we motor sailed for 12 hours before it filled in building to 20kts for the last couple of days. We had decided to head further south to stay with the wind, so as she built we reached up onto course giving us fast sailing conditions.
We actually tried to slow down putting 3 reefs in the main so that we would arrive in daylight, but that didn’t really work and we resolved ourselves to arrive early on the morning of the 24th. I had had some concern about crossing onto the plate from the deep Atlantic, but in the event the sea was only a little confused and short lived.
We dropped sails and headed into Prickly bay in a 30Kt squall at 4am local time.
Feeling our way around the crowded anchorage we found a spot and dropped both anchors, relieved to have made land and firmly secured ourselves for a few days…..Time for bed and sleep.
Fishing was great during the last week with 7 Mahi hooked, 4 landed and one Blue Marlin. The Marlin was caught on the rod during one of the quieter days and after landing the 90kg fish, we released her. A truly beautiful animal, but just a baby.
My form continued and I lost fish while Amanda quietly pulled them in on the hand line…oh well, maybe I will do better with the bottom fishing.
The Morning of arrival is always a busy time. There’s the dinghy to launch, the engine to put on, rubbish to take ashore, Customs clearance etc, all with the boys clambering to go to the beach. I took the boys to the customs and immigration office while Amanda stayed on board and prepared a lovely lunch of home made bread, cold meats, cheese and pickles, after which we decided to head ashore for a look around and some time on the beach.
We had a great time on the beach sitting under a palm tree, reading, swimming and the boys playing in and out of the water, which they both really appreciated. Its just so much easier when there’s a beach for the Boys. They can amuse themselves for hours and need very little service so we can actually spend some time together.
Christmas eve, so we went ashore for happy hour at the local Bar / Restaurant and ended up having a few Carib beers and eating Pizza and spare ribs. We weren’t too late and all fell into bed tired, but well fed and watered.
Christmas day and Santa has been!! The boys opened their stockings and we got up slowly and had breakfast of Sausage, eggs and toast. before the present fest.
We all had presents from the grandparents, aunts, uncles and godparents. Amanda and I had decided to buy each other token gifts…..although I think mine to Amanda was slightly more token than the spear gun she bought me….ehum….i will have to find something suitable in the carib…
We spent the best part of a week in Prickly Bay, with the wind at 20kts from the NE, patchy cloud and squalls, but with long sunny spells, and plenty of time on the beach.
On arrival I noticed a boat at the small marina, which had clearly seen some traumatic times and suffered a dismasting. As I looked, I realised I knew this boat “Hornblower” and was owned by a girl called Maiwenn. She had been a friend of some friends in Bequia and we had all hung out together over Easter 2001…happy times.
We spent 3 or 4 evenings with Maiwenn and her friend Graham, catching up on things and hearing about her dismasting on 23rd Dec, as she was sailing single-handed from Trinidad to Bequia.
Things like this just happen, who knows why, mechanical failure of the smallest part can cause catastrophe, but it goes with the territory and what was really lucky was that she was not lost overboard as she cut the rigging away, which nearly happened twice.
Well it looks like its an insurance job for Maiwenn so she has a surveyor in place and has now left “Hornblower” in Grenada and headed up to Antigua to work…..she is a chef on the largest yachts and also an artist (www.marinewatercolours.com).
We all had fun hanging out and early one morning Amanda and Maiwenn went to the local market in St Georges and returned with wonderful and exotic fruit and vegetables after having a laugh with the local traders who all knew Maiwenn.
The wind was changing and decreasing so we planned to head north to Carriacou for a quiet New Year and different beach.
We said our goodbyes and left Prickly bay on 30th motor sailing north.
When in Grenada we bought some really heavy fishing line to make some hand lines. On our way North I made up a new hand line and popped it over the side. I’m not sure what happened but within 2 hours I had wrapped both fishing lines around both propellers and got into a right pickle. We arrived off Sandy Island, Carriacou just before sunset that evening, and I dived the props and cut away the fishing line that was well wrapped around both drives. A welcome quiet night aboard and off to Sandy island in the morning.
A really beautiful day, hot and sunny, just like the brochure……THIS is what I signed up for!!! Desert Island, a few palm trees, warm water and sunshine.
We had the place to ourselves for an hour or so before a few other boats arrived. We headed back to Pegasus for lunch, and after fresh Pumpkin soup, pate and bread we headed off to Paradise beach in Esterre bay, a short dinghy ride.
We had departed Grenada having spent all our money, so we needed an ATM if we were going to have a few beers on New Years Eve. We scouted the beach and found what looked like a bar, although the owner was giving someone a haircut. After establishing that I did not want a haircut and that I was after an ATM, the client in the chair offer me a ride to the ATM in Tyrell bay after his chop.
We had an interesting ride to town…he knew everyone… and after getting some cash and fruit, headed back to the beach, Amanda and the boys.
All day on the beach really does tire the boys out, so we wandered down the beach in the late afternoon and found a restaurant where we all had real Caribbean fried chicken and chips and after a few beers and a little music headed back to Pegasus a hour after sundown.
The boys were straight to bed and Amanda and I enjoyed a drink in the cockpit under a star filled sky reflecting on 2008 and what we had achieved and what we wanted in 2009.
Its amazing how time flies, it was the 18th February 2008 when I picked up Pegasus in the Chesapeake and headed south. Wow, well blink and it’ll be a year we’ve been on board.
We both tried hard to see in the New Year and got to 9pm and had to call it a day. A real Caribbean day, just great.
Today, however, is different. Its windy at 20kts with a swell running, overcast with rain squalls.
Lets hope for more days like yesterday!!!! and soon
A few Stats for the interested.
Our daily mileage from day 11 to day 16.
181nm, 144nm, 141nm, 205nm, 194nm, 200nm
Total crossing time 16days one hour. 2894 nm Average speed 8.15kts
The Caribbean….and Beyond
Its been 2 months since our last blog entry…..wow, time flies. I’m writing this from Piscaderabaai in Curacao, the Dutch Antilles, some 400 miles west of Grenada. Yup, were committed west and any thoughts of going back across the Atlantic are history as we just cant get back there comfortably from here. Its west my friends into difficult seas and different cultures.
We’ve had a pretty busy time. The days have been filled with the usual domestic necessities and servicing the boys, along with some interesting sailing and at last some fish.
In brief the Caribbean was not as we expected. It just wasn’t settled weather, rained far more than expected and the sailing just wasn’t as good as I remembered. I suspect that was because Pegasus is just not the boat for short passages, or close hauled sailing. We can point, but not like a monohull, and frankly putting up the main is quite an exercise…57Ft of sail to hoist manually takes some 5 minutes, then you need full sail in the lea of the islands and reefed main in the passages between, so really quite a bit of work for one.
Basically if its less than 35 miles I’m not unpacking it, putting it up, reefing it and stowing it again. My little monohull was perfect for the Carib, but Pegasus is designed for different sailing, fast ocean passages, and subsequently we sailed north motor sailing, and south on the Genoa.
After Carriacou we spent some time in Petit St Vincent, Union Island and then up to Bequia. We left Bequia and in settled weather spent a lovely night in Baliceaux, a non frequented deserted island….reminded us of the Bahamas. Then down to Mustique…Beautiful. We found our first play park in pristine Mustique and the boys loved it.
WE sort of got the Caribbean wrong . Arriving in Grenada, one of the cheapest places in the Carib was not appreciated, as we were not used to the currency. 1 Eastern Carib Dollar was worth some 20-25 pence,(depending which day you exchanged!!) so when offered a pizza for 40 dollars we thought that was expensive. However, a Pizza in Bequia was 65 dollars!!
My advice would be to go to Mustique first (200 dollars for 3 days mooring) where I took the boys to the Firefly for morning coffee and Guava juice for a cool 50 dollars. Everywhere seems cheap after that and it’s just a pleasure heading south as it gets cheaper and cheaper.
While in Mustique we heard that some friends, James and Nic on Lost Horizon were in Bequia, so having missed them in N Spain decided to head the 15 miles back to Bequia to see them. Nic had her sister and Niece on board and James had assembled a small flotilla of 3 boats all heading to Grenada for the Sailing Festival. We all sailed to Petit Nevis for the evening and had James on board for drinks. As he said they were all having dinner with Hans and Cathy on Summertime, but as we had our “Balls and chains”, we weren’t invited. I always liked James for his direct approach. There’s something very honest about it.
We all headed south and met up again after a few nights in Chatham Bay, Union Island, then headed back to Grenada where James and his crew were sailing in the Sailing Festival.
Well, Amanda kindly allowed me to sail and we all had a great time. Lost Horizon won the races, we went to regatta parties and after a week James won the Regatta. This is basically how he spends his winter…Racing and winning, and has been doing that for 20 odd years. There were many prizes which were generously given away to the crew. Lost Horizon kindly gave us a new 2hp outboard engine which was on our shopping list. Much appreciated and the boys now have an engine they can learn on….Thanks James.
Lost Horizon and Summertime headed north for the round Martinique race and Alex and Fran on Chao Lay stayed with us in Grenada. We had a few dinners together and really enjoyed ourselves. They were both very good with the boys and we all had a good time.
We were preparing to leave Grenada when we noticed a lump on Louis. Well, that was a shock. We went to the doctor who referred us to the hospital where we has some tests done. The prognosis was, to our relief, a hernia and a week later Louis was on the operating table having it removed. We decided to stay in Grenada for another week for recovery, which happened smoothly with no secondary infection.
Whilst travelling to and from Hospital we got to see a different side of Grenada, which we really quite liked…except for all the rain. We travelled by bus, which was just great. Private minivans with operator’s licences, a scout and pumping stereo. For 2.50 per person you can travel anywhere and each operator is so keen for business you rarely wait more than 5 minutes for a ride. It’s a system that works really well and I’m sure there’s much to learn from the success of the Caribbean public transport system.
While were on it…images of Grenada….the incredibly smart Police uniform, peaked cap, navy with red striped trousers / skirt, crisp light blue shirt, and highly polished shoes…it just commands respect. The polite and courteous nature of the locals….everyone says good morning, good afternoon etc and people reply, good afternoon, good morning etc The lush nature of the island, wherever you look there’s food hanging from the trees bananas, paw paw, mangoes, nutmeg, sapodilla, star fruit, avocados, tamarind, passion fruit, oranges, mandarins, grapefruit, sour sop, jackfruit etc,
I took Louis up to the hospital for the last time and his stitches looked good. It was time to Leave and head West.
We left Grand Anse Grenada at 4pm on 19/2. The forecast was for building winds with a large 4m northly swell due within 12 hours. We headed NW to give us room to bear away if the swell became untenable. As it happened I think we were far enough west to avoid the swell when it came and made a fast passage headed for Bonaire with a possible stop in Los Roques, a beautiful group of coral islands on route, but in Venezuelan waters. Having read the entry procedures it looked like we would have to go down to mainland Venezuela to clear out, so decided to head straight to Bonaire. We had great fishing with our new hand lines. A double strike of Wahoo, 15 and 10kg, a small Barracuda , and while we were eating that a massive 50KG Wahoo….fantastic.
We arrived in Bonaire at close to midnight on 21/2 having made daily runs of 186miles, 178 miles and 51 miles in the last 6 hours.
Bonaire was really beautiful and we arrived at Carnival…which seemed a good excuse for the population to enjoy a few jars and all were merry. The water was crystal clear and we all enjoyed swimming off the boat and swimming to the beach a 100 yards away. We used our new engine and broke it in slowly with the boys driving. JJ now calls this his engine…I’m not sure about that!
Curacao was just a 35 mile hop so we had a sedate sail with just the Genoa up heading downwind. As we arrived we were buzzed by the Customs helicopter, a reminder of the dangerous waters we were now approaching.
While in the Caribbean we had started to read in earnest about the pacific and the passages to Panama through the western Caribbean sea. It looked like we would have to modify our initial plans.
The first major concern is Piracy. Although people have a romantic image of pirates, there’s nothing romantic about a poor drugged up fisherman touting a weapon threatening your families existence. The Piracy in Venezuela is real and armed robbery happens on a lottery basis. Most travel through the area with no trouble, but some loose all. For me it is too much of a risk with the boys on board. We will go there another time. There are plenty of islands in the Pacific.
Columbia has its own security issues although if you travel well offshore Piracy should not be an issue. Cartagena is relatively secure and is well policed. The only obstacle with the offshore passage plan is the weather. It is known as one of the worlds 5 windiest passages with large confused seas, and so choosing the right weather window for this is critical, but I think we will plan on an offshore passage to Cartagena.
It is now apparent, having read about anchoring in the Pacific, that we can expect the average anchoring depth to be 20 meters…although that was written by a monohull sailor and hopefully we can reduce that to say 15 meters with our shallow draft…..and as such our ground tackle is not sufficient.
I have sourced a new anchor, chain and shackles and need to place the order for delivery in Panama. Our problem is that we have no Windlass, so hauling up 200 ft chain and a 25kg anchor is going to be tough, but I have a plan. Just for the technically minded we have elected to run with 5/16th high test chain with a working load of 3900lbs. That is equivalent to 8mm but is strong enough. We have selected a technical anchor called a Rochna, which seems to rate highly in testing and everyone I’ve met who has one swears by them. Our plan is 50 ft chain in 5 meters water, 100ft in 10 meters etc. The point of the chain is just to stop seabed abrasion on the nylon rode. Nylon will last 5 minutes on a coral head, its got to be chain. We will place our order while here in Curacao and hope it will be in Panama by the time we get there towards the end of March.
So were sitting here in Piscaderabaai waiting for the weather to clear to give us a clear 4 day passage to Cartagena and our first visit to South America. We have to spend a morning clearing customs, immigration and file our float plan with the harbour authority, then we are clear to leave. On arriving in Cartagena we will use an agent to clear in as the paperwork starts to get pretty daunting, but were all looking forward to seeing what is reputed to be a most beautiful city.
We enjoyed our stay in the Carib and for the first time really started cruising. We met the same boats in different locations and had many good evenings with extraordinary people. The Boys met, played and said goodbye to new friends and we all moved on in different ways. We were lucky enough to meet a few club members who gave advise and recommendations and we hope to see some again our travels west. We are in a new zone now, committed to Panama and the Pacific, and the people we are meeting are in the same zone with the same level of dedication and the same challenges ahead. We are entering a difficult phase and I for one will be glad when we are through the canal and into the Pacific….
We plan to update our blog more regularly from now on, so if there are any readers out there bear with us, its should get pretty exciting from here on in.
All aboard Pegasus
See our Photographs of the Passage and Christmas 2008 at