Passage from Ascension to Grenada - Part 1

Day 1  

Left Ascension at 0800 with a heavy cloud hanging over the island.  Once we were clear of the island we had blue sky and sun which continued for the rest of the day.  Winds were around 10 knots from the ESE so we made fairly slow progress during the day with Matt threatening to get the spinnaker off the back deck.  However the wind increased during the night with a few rain showers (badly needed to wash the boat) so our speed increased slightly. We left in company with Vulcan Spirit and plan to keep in VHF/SSB contact with them throughout the trip. This morning they are 20 miles behind us.  

Not a lot of wildlife about but the solar panels needed a clean this morning as 3 black noddies had decided to use them to have a rest and perform their ablutions!

On this trip we need to get north across the doldrums, and sure enough there is a huge area of very light winds to our north. The plan is to sail west to at least 25W before trying to turn NW for a “dash” through the doldrums and into the NE trades of the northern hemisphere. The winds for the first half of the trip look light, so it may be slow going!  

Date and time: 17th Feb 2016  0800 GMT;    24 hours distance:   150nm;    Position: S07:39:943 W016:55:506

Day 2

Good steady Eddy day – wind between 12 – 15 knots then up a bit in the night – now around 20kts so doing a reasonable speed. 

Matt a bit concerned as we didn't make that much on Vulcan Spirit during the day yesterday – thankfully we made a few miles on them during the night!  Caught up on a few ‘admin' jobs which will continue today whilst the sea is ‘slight' (although quite rolly at times).  Must've gone through a nursery as there were lots of tiny flying fish on deck this morning.  Wondering if the collective name changes for flying fish when they are out of the water – shoal in the water and flock when they're flying?  Maybe it's a ‘shock' of flying fish!  

Date and time: 18th Feb 2016 0800 GMT;    24 hours distance:   174 nm;    Position: S07:21:2 W019:48:6

Day 3

Increasing winds during the day caused a bit of boisterousness later on but after much discussion (Jean “Shall we put a reef in?”  Matt “No I don't think so, let's just hold out for the time being”) we decided against a reef and continued on a 2 sail reach throughout the night.  The winds have abated back down to around 18kts.  Not been much sun around so the batteries are quite low in the morning – having to run the generator every morning for around 2.5 hours.  

After not seeing any other ships since we set off, we had a very close encounter this morning with a large (1000ft) tanker heading for Singapore but directly in our path (seen and predicted by the AIS).  After a call on the VHF he very kindly altered course and passed half a mile behind our stern.   

A couple more birds on the solar panels preening themselves this morning and leaving us presents…..  

Date and time: 19th Feb 2016 0800 GMT;    24 hours distance:   194nm;       Position: S07:13:9 W023:04:3

Day 4  

Lovely day – bit of blue sky, flat seas and reasonable breeze – what more can you ask?  Managed to get a bit more of my website done and finished another book.

No birds on the solar panels this morning but 29 flying fish on deck (mainly titchy ones).  Passed our friends in Pelargie early hours of this morning – they set off a day ahead of us so we're not doing too badly (so far).  

Starting to approach the area of lighter winds where we will start to edge north, so could be a slow few days coming up?

Date and time: 20th Feb 2016 0800 GMT;    24 hours distance:   185nm;    Position: S06:50:1 W026:09:4  

Day 5  

Another steady day with reasonable speeds.  Wind up and down in the night but back to around 14kts again this morning.  Had a strange gremlin fiddled with the autohelm early evening – it decided to reset itself – I was down making dinner and Matt was on the SSB – next thing we knew our speed suddenly dropped and we had gybed round – fortunately the preventer “prevented” and the only thing that broke was the kicker block which Matt has fixed with some rope.  Hope it doesn't happen again.  

As we're going west we're trying to keep up with the time zones so we are now (boat time) on GMT- 2 hours. We've actually been a bit remiss in making the time changes, so now suffering the confusion for the rapid catch ups. This means a longer day which mucks up sleep patterns even worse than they are in the base case – we'll probably have to go back another hour again tomorrow.  Imagine putting the clocks back an hour every other day!  If only it would work for our ages too and the wrinkles would disappear!

Date and time: 21st Feb 2016 0800 GMT;    24 hours distance:   177nm;    Position: S06:22 W029:04  

Day 6  

One of those days where the wind direction was ‘neither nowt nor summat' - not quite right for a 2 sail reach and not quite right for goose-winged.  Consequently we sailed very much on the edge goose winged, with the occasional big flap as the autohelm lurched around in the swells. So a bit more rolly, but generally not bad at all.

We are approaching the Island of Fernando de Noronho about 185nm off the corner of Brazil which is located in the doldrums region (Inter Tropical Convergence Zone) where there is lots of rain, convection, wind shifts etc. Sure enough in the night we had rain, rain and more rain together with various wind shifts and no wind so we had to run the engine for a couple of hours to keep going.  Back to goose-winged at the moment but the sky is still looking a bit black – might be a trying day.  

Lots of teenie flying fish washed up on deck and a couple of boobies flying round the boat again yesterday – we think they are after the flying fish that are disturbed by the boat.  Would like to see one catching a flying fish mid-air.  

Date and time: 22nd Feb 2016 0800 GMT;    24 hours distance:   180nm;    Position: S05:32:97 W031:56:08  

Day 7  

Have truly entered into the ITCZ (doldrums) and spent an extremely rainy day trying to keep the boat going as the winds came and went – by mid afternoon the boat speed was around 2 knots.  We had just furled the genoa and brought in the main sail and started the engine when the wind got up – it then came from ahead of the beam so we were able to sail on a reach with a very reasonable speed and lovely flat seas.  This lasted late into the night then it swung back but still blowing at around 15 knots from astern.  We kept up a good speed through the night until just before dawn then the sea started to get lumpy and the wind dropped.  It's back up a bit again – very overcast – so we'll see what the day brings.   

We're now just picking up the westward flowing equatorial current, (the current gribs seem to be right!), which eventually become the Guyana current. This should increase in speed (2-3k) as we progress along the north Brazilian coast and hopefully whisk us all the way to Grenada in a couple of weeks. We're now only 65nm from Cabo de sao roque (the north east corner of Brazil ) and over a third of the way there – only another 1900 miles to go!  

PS. Just got a visit from a very large pod of small high leaping dolphins waving welcome to Brazil flags!

PPS Officially identified as pan-tropical spotted dolphins or maybe Atlantic spotted dolphins – difficult to distinguish between them!  

Date and time: 23rd Feb 2016 0800 GMT;    24 hours distance:   163nm;    Position: S04:34:94 W034:28:26  

Day 8

Had a good day's sail with reasonable winds (more than expected) and an increasing positive current helping us along.  Wind started to die around 6pm and heard from another boat on SSB that they had no wind all day, so thinking the doldrums were nigh, we put on the engine.  The heavens opened and rain like you've never seen (unless you live in Scotland )  came down for about 3 hours.  Around 7pm the wind came out of the north east and started to blow old boots. (A gybe needed). In the pitch black dark, Matt went out in the nuddy to switch the main sail over (I reckon he just wanted an excuse to get out of having a shower today).  We got the main gybed and rolled way the headsail as too dangerous to gybe the pole, but within another hour the wind had dropped to nothing again so on went the engine.  I went to bed.  Another hour and Matt came to wake me to put the main away and to put the genoa out on the pole– the wind had gone back round to the southeast.  We sailed like that under headsail only for the rest of the night doing 7-9k in calm, quiet conditions with the wind around 20 knots and positive current of around 1.5 to 2 knots.

In the early hours we were treated to an electrical storm – bolts of lightning hitting the water, arcs in the sky – another full monty!  It lasted around 3 hours.  Defcon 2 – into the oven went the mini computer, the hand held radio and a GPS.

It's all settled down again now – we're still sailing with just the genoa poled out and expect the wind to go round the north east later today or this evening, hopefully indicating we've transitioned into the NE trades.  We are around 65 miles off the Brazilian coast and are getting butterflies and other bugs flying around us!

Date and time: 24th Feb 2016 0800 GMT;    24 hours distance:   180nm;    Position: S03:21:77 W037:11:99 

Day 9  

With all this positive current and the grib files showing the winds going to the east we decided to leave the genoa poled out and not bother with the main.  We had to wait much longer for the wind to fill in from the east so didn't get the main out until around 5pm we put a reef in expecting stronger winds but been fairly light winds all night so have just shaken out the reef this morning. 

We had another long day yesterday as we put our clocks back another hour – we're now GMT-3 and the nights are getting longer as we near the equator (11 hours of darkness last night).  We're just about half way to Grenada now and about 100 miles south of the equator but don't think we'll cross the line until tomorrow as we're still heading west.  Saw the sun rise this morning for the first time in about 4 days – but it's starting to cloud over again now!

Date and time: 25th Feb 2016 0800 GMT;    24 hours distance:   192nm;    Position: S01:46:096 W039:56:531  

Day 10  

Just look at that position!  I had to cheat a bit and take the readings at 3 minutes past 8am!  So we're now back in the northern hemisphere.  If it wasn't so cloudy at nights we might have had a glimpse of the Plough.  

Good day yesterday with 2 knot current until late afternoon then it started to drop off a bit and has gradually gone down to around 0.5knots.   According to the file it should be between 2 and 3 knots so don't know what's happened to it.  We are off the Amazon delta, so maybe something is happening as a result. At around 5pm we had a squall – just managed to get the sails reefed before it really hit us – have kept the reefs in all night as the wind has now gone further ahead onto a close reach.                                                                                                                                               

Date and time: 26th Feb 2016 0803 GMT;    24 hours distance:   205nm;    Position: S00:00:000 W042:50:97  

Day 11

Such a grey day and bleak night!  From midnight we had non-stop rain squalls followed by periods of no wind where the squall had sucked away the wind then more squalls.  We're currently sitting with just rain and no wind!  Neither of us managed to get much sleep.  The great 2 knot positive current has disappeared altogether this morning and it looks as if we're in for another grey day.  Good to be back in the northern hemisphere!  

On his inspection round yesterday Matt found some broken wires on both the starboard and port lower diagonal shrouds (and the rigging is less than 2 years old!) – we now have them roped up and will have to get new ones made either in Grenada, Martinique or St Martin – isn't there always just something!

Oh well only about another 1100 miles to go…………..  

Date and time: 27th Feb 2016 0800 GMT;    24 hours distance:   208nm;    Position: N01:57:815 W045:40

Day 12

Forgot also to say that yesterday (27th Feb) was exactly 7 years since we set off on this adventure (27th Feb 2009) in Grenada – we're now about 5 or 6 days away from Grenada – how about that for timing?

Well the rain and squalls continued yesterday up until around 4pm.  In fact it was so bad we put the main away and sailed with just the genoa as we were quite concerned about the rig.  We are still sailing with genoa only.  The sea over the last couple of days has got quite lumpy too so we're bouncing around a bit.  We have picked up a bit of positive current again but nowhere near as much as shows on the gribs but ‘every little helps' as they say (who's they?)  

We had several birds (I think they're noddys – not big ears – ha!) hitching a ride on the solar panels last night again – they must be glad it's stopped raining!  We're now past the Amazon delta and have about 960nm to go – 2/3 of the way there – whoppee!  

Oops spoke too soon – it's just started raining again!

Date and time: 28th Feb 2016 0800 GMT;    24 hours distance:   165nm;    Position: N03:38:952 W047:49:088  

Day 13

Well we actually had some sun yesterday – enough for the solar panels to make something of it!  Wonderful! We sailed with just the genoa until about 4pm then the wind dropped a bit so we added a well reefed main.  Because of the extra rigging doubling up the D1 shrouds, we can't get the main out very far, but its fine on a close or beam reach, which it is now. So we now still have reefed main and genoa but we have around 1.5 knots of positive current so we're doing quite well.  The lumpy sea from yesterday has calmed down a bit now too.   

It did rain a bit in the night but ‘normal' rain and the sky is a bit grey again this morning but only a thin veil of cloud so it's all good on this leap year day! We are currently about 100nm off French Guyana and “Devil's” Island , the scene for the move Papillon. Helen sent us some satellite based weather intel in answer to our question about what was happening a couple of days ago transiting the Amazon delta? It seems we are on the edge of some high cloud running from Venezuela to the Amazon, but have cleared the wicked stuff we spent 24 hrs transiting a couple of days ago.  

Date and time: 29th Feb 2016 0800 GMT;    24 hours distance:   202nm;    Position: N05:41:571 W050:27:929